The government has partially relented on its proposed blanket discrimination against transgender athletes’ participation in sports. However, Craig Young says the picture isn’t as clear as an outright victory.

The New Zealand Herald broke the story with journalist Liam Napier profiling the history of the policy that originated from New Zealand First’s coalition agreement with National, which included a threat to cut funding to sports organisations that include trans athletes. NZ First’s Sports Spokesperson Andy Foster claimed the discriminatory measure was about ensuring ‘fairness and safety” for women. If codes remained inclusive of trans athletes, they would be deprived of government funding.

Sports NZ chief executive Raelene Castle then asked for clarification of her organisation’s constituent codes over their policies on transgender inclusion. It turned out that 18% already had a transgender inclusion policy and a further 35% were developing one.


Boxing NZ and Triathalon NZ had already incorporated open categories where anyone could compete.

Rugby League has a code that after age thirteen, players must compete in their gender assigned at birth, even if that gender is not the one that they currently identify as.

Netball NZ requires players to have undertaken hormone therapy, have testosterone below specific levels or provide an authorised document certifying their current gender.

Rugby Union is reportedly devising a policy with age and stage restrictions, that are broadly inclusive.

Canoe slalom, gymnastics, karate, surfing, snow sports and Paralympics NZ do not have codes related to transgender participation, one way or another. Castle noted that Sports NZ had not received a significant proportion of complaints about transgender inclusion.

The opposition parties (Labour, Greens, Te Pāti Māori) all support transgender inclusion in sports, but the same cannot be said of NZ First’s leader Winston Peters who looks set to pick a fight with Sports NZ and his own coalition’s sports minister, Chris Bishop, over the issue.

Bishop is usually viewed as a social liberal within his caucus. Peters’ sniping over this issue will not be appreciated at a time when the National Party is trying to keep attention focused on its economic credentials.

Peters needs to decide whether making an enemy of a potential future leader of National is in his party’s best interests. Surely NZ First’s priority should be their survival after Peters’s eventual departure from the political stage.