Birth certificates

A birth certificate is an official document which records important, registered information regarding an individual’s birth. It includes data which identifies the child as an individual, as well as information regarding their biological parents. At the end of New Zealand birth certificates there is a legal clause, as well as a birth registration number which is individually assigned.

A birth certificate can relate to the original document which contains all of the information relating to the birth, or alternately, a certified copy or representation of the registration of the birth. It is worth knowing that the actual and original record of birth is not given out and is stored safely and for perpetuity with a government agency. In New Zealand this is with the Department of Internal Affairs – Births, Deaths and Marriages. And it is through them that certified copies can be issued upon request.

Each certification has to be signed and/or sealed with an official mark by the registrar or other authority who has been commissioned by the government of the centralised birth records.

It is only possible to obtain a birth certificate once a child’s birth has been registered. New Zealand law states that both parents must jointly notify Births, Deaths and Marriages as soon as it is reasonably practicable to do this after the baby has been born. There is a two month time frame to allow mothers to recover from the birth and for parents to be sure what they wish to name their baby. Registering a baby’s birth is free. However, if parents want a birth certificate there is a fee for this.

Have births always been registered?

From a historical perspective, record keeping of births has been a long held practice within many countries. The benefits were not so much for the individual, but for their state and country as well and as a means of ensuring that all eligible citizens were paying tax. Another reason was so that all who were available contributed to their country’s military presence.

It was once common practice for births to be registered by churches rather than the current arrangement which is with state authorities. For those who are looking to secure historical family birth and death records, the local parish church is often cited as a good place to start.

Why would I want a birth certificate?

Apart from being a nice thing to have, birth certificates also serve a number of purposes. Throughout your child’s life there will be occasions when they will need a birth certificate to prove personal information regarding their individual status.

Common purposes are:

  • When enrolling at school.
  • Applying for government benefits.
  • Obtaining a driver’s licence.
  • Getting a passport.
  • Proving their identity such as opening a bank account or applying for a bank loan.

How to register your baby’s birth

You will be given a “Notification of Birth for Registration” form after your baby is born. A midwife or one of the nursing or administrative staff caring for you in the maternity hospital is legally obliged to do this.

If you have a homebirth the midwife is also legally bound to ensure you are given this paperwork. However, if you do not receive one or you are having problems understanding what you need to do or how to fill it out correctly then you need to contact:

The Department of Internal Affairs: Births, Deaths and Marriages Contact Centre on:
0800 22 52 52 This is a free phone and is only accessible within New Zealand
Phone: (+64 4) 463 9362
Email: bdm.nz@dia.govt.nz
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 8:00am – 7:00pm, Friday 9:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday 9:00am – 2:00pm

Once you have completed the form you need to post it to:
Births, Deaths and Marriages
PO Box 31203
Lower Hutt 5040
New Zealand

Ordering a New Zealand birth certificate

If you would like to order a birth certificate at the same time as you send in your child’s birth registration form you just need to request one. But remember, your child’s birth has to be registered first before they can issue you with a birth certificate. It will cost you $26.50 NZD. This is a standard charge for reproducing the document and is a regulated, non-negotiable fee.

Once you have submitted your order, the birth certificate or printout will generally be ready within 8 working days. Allow for delivery time to your home address.

Information which is included on New Zealand Birth Certificates

  • The child’s first and given names.
  • Their last name/surname/family name.
  • The gender (sex) of the child.
  • Their date of birth.
  • Their place of birth.
  • Their mother’s first and family names.
  • Their mother’s surname when the child was born.
  • The mother’s place and date of birth.
  • The father’s first and family names.
  • The father’s place and date of birth.

But is the information safe?

As a means of reducing identity fraud, changes were made in 1988 to the information contained in New Zealand birth certificates. All birth certificates which were issued before 1/01/1998 are still valid though. The major change is that now all birth certificates have an identifier number included on them which links the certificate to the birth registration.

The birth certificate, whilst an important document, is proof that the birth was registered and proves a link between the child and their parents. It is not proof of a person’s identity and this is why they include a warning to this effect.

Why should I register my baby’s birth?

Within New Zealand it is standard practice for parents to register their child’s birth. But not every country has the same level of protective, legislative process. It is worth remembering that no matter how individual parents may feel about providing personal information to the Government about themselves and their child, there are significant, lifelong benefits in registering their child’s birth. And also because it is a legal obligation of all parents to do so.

Every child has the right to certain information regarding their origins and identity.

Registering a birth also helps individuals to prove

  • Their age and date of birth.
  • Their nationality and indigenous status.
  • In order to receive healthcare and if eligible, be covered by their country’s health insurance scheme.
  • To receive an education and have formal assessments done on their educational achievements.
  • To be adopted by adult caregivers or guardians other than their biological parents.
  • To be protected from under age conscription or military consignment.
  • T o marry, form legal partnerships, open a valid bank account.
  • To obtain a driver’s license and passport.
  • To inherit property, money or business transactions.
  • To vote for a political party or stand themselves for elected office.

Important link to the Birth, Deaths and Marriages website

To request a New Zealand Birth Certificate or Printout go to: http://www.dia.govt.nz/Pubforms.nsf/URL/BirthCertificateorPrintoutRequestForm.pdf/$file/BirthCertificateorPrintoutRequestForm.pdf

Birth certificate and registration fees

Product/Service Fee
Birth registration Free
Birth certificate $26.50 NZD
Birth certificate package (1 pictorial and 1 standard certificate for the same person) $39.80 NZD
Pre-Adoptive New Zealand birth certificate $15.30 NZD

Decorative birth certificates

Birth certificate $26.50 NZD
Birth certificate package (1 pictorial and 1 standard certificate for the same person) $39.80 NZD

There are two options when it comes to decorative birth certificates and both of them are distinctly unique to New Zealand. One is titled Forest Decorative and features the Koru and Harakeke plants. The other features a beach scene with a mother holding her baby and being welcomed by her family.

Standard Forest Decorative Beach Decorative

You may be able to place a phone order for your child’s certificate. The phone number to enquire is:

  • In New Zealand Freephone 0800 22 77 77
  • Outside New Zealand (+64 4) 463 9362

What if I’m having problems locating the birth certificate online?

Ensure that you’ve provided as much accurate information as possible. You could check with other family members who have some more insight into details, dates and names. If necessary, a more involved search will be attended but this incurs a search fee.

It is very important to ensure you have correctly spelt names and addresses. Making sure the birth dates are correct will ensure a much more streamlined search.

Birth certificates for babies who were adopted

When a child has been legally adopted, their birth certificate will state their adopted parent’s details. However, it is possible to apply for a copy of the original pre-adoptive birth certificate with the biological parents details noted, as long as you are at least twenty years old.

Occasionally a non-disclosure direction is in place which limits the amount of information which can be accessed. Non-disclosure directions generally expire after five years unless they have been reactivated or withdrawn in that time frame.

For further information check:

Written by Jane Barry on behalf of Huggies