NZ's adoption and surrogacy laws 'complicated, expensive and convoluted', says father who aims to change them

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

New Zealand's adoption and surrogacy laws are complicated, expensive and convoluted, say a group petitioning the Government to make changes to the 64-year-old law. 

Parents Christian Newman and Mark Edwards told their adoption and surrogacy story to TVNZ in 2018 . This year, Mr Newman brought a petition with over 30,000 signatures to Parliament 

"It's complicated, it's expensive, it's a very convoluted process," he told 1 NEWS this week. 

"It's a relief to have so much support and know that the country is backing this and we do need this."

He wants to see a change to the Adoption Act and the surrogacy laws in New Zealand, saying there were issues such as surrogates not being able to be compensated, biological parents not being named on the birth certificate of surrogate births, and the laws around gay couples adopting internationally.

Mr Newman said he decided to take the issue to Parliament after visits from Oranga Tamariki. 

"[They] came through our home and asked us questions about our school, our dog, the way that we live our lives.

"The number of times they came to our home, the resources that were being used, when they could've been utilitised for a much more important family, just really blew my mind. The cost, the time involved from a Government perspective, with such a lowly resourced department, that's when it struck me.

"It just got worse from there, the bureaucracy, the time and the effort continued to go on. I knew I had to make a change for those families in need and also for the families that wanted to have children and either couldn't afford it, it was too hard or they didn't understand."

MP Tāmati Coffey accepted the petition. He went through the same process with husband Tim Smith, telling TVNZ1's Seven Sharp it was "strange" he and his husband had to adopt baby Tūtānekai, given Mr Smith is the biological father.

"There's just so much confusion and so much misinformation out there," Mr Coffey said in July.

"For me it was trying to find a surrogate, because there is no yellow pages for surrogates. You can't just download a list. You have to go cap in hand to everyone you know in the most selfless and loving way and ask people if they will carry your baby for you, which is a huge conversation. 

"It's emotionally draining. After knocking on so many doors, one finally opened, but it made me think. What about those people who don't manage to find one? Are they just left out of this process? Or could this be better?

"When baby came, we were nowhere on the birth certificate and according to law we had to go through a process to adopt baby, which issued him a second birth certificate. It's things like that that reinforce the point that modern families need modern laws."

MP Paul Eagle said when he was adopted he had to wait 18 years to get his original birth certificate.

"That would still be the case today," he said.

"You have a mini-identity crisis almost because until you get that you don't really know that you're the ethnicity they told you you were, you don't know how you fit and how you click into the puzzle.

"These are some of the dynamics of the Adoption Act that need to be changed."