New Zealand’s Government is poised to implement a controversial policy that may dramatically impact transgender athletes’ participation in grassroots sports.

Spearheaded by New Zealand First, the party’s sport and recreation spokesman, Andy Foster, said it is “about fairness and safety in sport for women.”

The policy focuses on separating transgender athletes from amateur competitions, with the goal of ensuring fair and safe competition in sports funded by public money. This move aligns with similar decisions made by international sporting bodies to restrict transgender women from competing in female categories at the elite level.


The policy has sparked concern among the transgender community, with athletes like mountain biker Kate Weatherly expressing fear that it might lead to exclusion or relegation to men’s competitions. Amidst the debate, Sport and Recreation Minister Chris Bishop acknowledged the complexity of the issue while emphasising the importance of fairness in competition.

“It is a tricky one, a thorny issue. There’s strong views on both sides of the debate. I’ll work through that with the relevant sporting bodies,” Bishop told the Herald, adding: “Ultimately, it’s got to go over to sporting bodies to make sure that we have fair competition.”

This policy targets community-level sports and is backed by the threat of withholding public funding from sports bodies that do not comply, adding to a sum total of over $9.3 million across 38 sports at the community level.

Critics argue that this move could effectively sideline transgender athletes due to their relatively small numbers, making it challenging to form alternative competitions. The policy has been met with resistance from various quarters, including former sports minister Grant Robertson, who criticised the government’s approach as undermining efforts to make grassroots sports more inclusive.

Sport New Zealand has developed transgender guiding principles to aid sporting organisations in formulating their policies, emphasising the need to consider safety and wellbeing of all participants. This approach encourages considering competition fairness on a sport-by-sport basis, considering the differing requirements of contact and target sports.

The Green Party’s sports and recreation spokesman, Efeso Collins, emphasised the importance of ensuring that no barriers prevent rainbow community members, including transgender, non-binary, and intersex individuals, from participating in sports.

“There should be no barriers that discourage and prevent rainbow people, including those who are trans, non-binary and intersex, from participating and competing in sports.”

“Sport is as much about wellbeing and community connection as it is competition. Most people who play sports are doing it as a form of recreation. Everyone, including gender-diverse people, should be able to participate in a gender category they identify with,” Collins added.