New Zealand Law Society - Updated Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill has first reading

Updated Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill has first reading

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The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill has had its first reading in Parliament and re-enacts the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995.

The bill gives effect to the recommendations arising from the former Minister of Internal Affairs’ (Peter Dunne) review of the access provisions in the 1995 Act, which was presented  to the House of Representatives in October last year.

The bill makes some changes to the rules that restrict what information can be published online, which will enable the Department of Internal Affairs to develop an end-to-end service that increases access to BDM information (including historic BDM register images) through digital and online channels.

The legislative framework for the new access channels will include a requirement for a verified RealMe ID (or an approved equivalent) that can be asserted online. The bill will also clarify the status of Intention to Marry books, which are a valuable resource for genealogical research. Access will be authorised in the same way, and subject to the same rules, as solemnised marriage records.

Changes to Births, Deaths, Marriages registers

The bill will make a number of small but important changes to improve the integrity of the BDM registers by clarifying the rules concerning overseas-registered or overseas-sourced BDM information (eg, an overseas-registered divorce or dissolution of a marriage solemnised in New Zealand), close a gap in the existing law that could undermine the effectiveness of a non-disclosure direction, and strengthen BDM access register requirements.

In addition, regulations that will replace the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration (Prescribed Information) Regulations 1995 will provide that an individual’s death record will record all of that person’s children (living or dead), with a notation "deceased" where applicable.

Under the 1995 Act, children who die before one (or both) of their parents are not recorded on their parent’s death certificate. This change will address a known cause of concern for grieving families and ensure more complete family records, which will benefit individual families, researchers, and family historians.

The bill also responds to three discrete issues raised in the Law Commission’s review of burial and cremation law.

It introduces a new requirement for a preliminary notice of death (similar to the existing preliminary notice of birth) to be completed by the health professional responsible for the certificate of cause of death. It will also clarify the existing law, which conflates responsibility to notify a death with responsibility to notify disposal of a body. This means some deaths are not notified in a timely way. The person making decisions about disposal of a body will need to notify the death "as soon as practicable, and no later than 3 working days, after the disposal of the [deceased] person's body".

The bill has been referred to the Governance and Administration Committee.

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