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Family First New Zealand

Family First New Zealand is a conservative Christian lobby group in New Zealand. It was founded in March 2006 with former Radio Rhema talkback host and South Auckland social-worker Bob McCoskrie as the national director. Its stated objectives are to "seek to influence public policy affecting the rights and protection of families and promote a culture that values the family".[1]



Currently, the organisation lists several of its major objectives on an associated website[which?]. These include:


It lists secondary matters of concern as:


No. Leader Period Time in office
1 Bob McCoskrie 2006 – present 13 years and 8 months


Anti-smacking referendumEdit

In 2007, Family First supported a petition for a citizens-initiated referendum to overturn the 2007 amendment act which replaced Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961,[4] which had allowed for a defence of reasonable force in child abuse cases based on corporal punishment. The petition gained 324,316 signatures although only 285,027 were required for a referendum. When checked for invalid signatures there was a shortfall of 15,000 signatures.[5] Sufficient signatures were then obtained to hold the 2009 New Zealand citizens-initiated referendum, asking voters "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?". In May 2009, Family First criticised the Government for spending $8 million on the referendum which they felt should have been held at the same time as the November 2008 general election.[6] Although the referendum returned with 87.4% of those who voted voting "No", no change was made to the Crimes Act, and the referendum question was criticised by opponents for being a loaded question.

Electoral campaigningEdit

Family First produces "Value Your Vote", a brochure and accompanying website which are a voting guide primarily concerned with each party's or candidate's record and opinions on issues which it sees as of detriment to the family, such as civil unions, prostitution and abortion.[7] This guide has been published for the 2008 general election,[8] the 2010 Auckland mayoral election,[9] and the 2011 general election.[8]

Gay marriageEdit

In July 2012, Family First established "Protect Marriage", a website set up to oppose the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in New Zealand after Louisa Wall's private member's bill was drawn from the ballot. The website was collecting signatures for a petition against gay marriage with joke entries, such as Tobias Funke, Eminem and 50 Cent.[10] However, more than 70,000 signatures were presented to Parliament opposing the redefinition of marriage.[11] A poll just before the bill was passed showed that the country was split over the issue.[12]

The website also reproduced the single "Marry Me" from the band Train without authorisation, and, after being alerted by Twitter users of its usage,[13] the band demanded its withdrawal.[14] In a statement the band made explicit their support for gay marriage, and Family First later removed the track.[15]

Charity statusEdit

In May 2013, Family First lost its status as a charity (but it has not formally lost their charitable status as the decision is on appeal in the High Court)[citation needed] after the Charities Registration Board of the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs ruled the group did not "further religion or education, nor promote a benefit to all New Zealanders"; however, this is under appeal.[16] In its media statement and within the online copy of its decision, the Charities Registration Board argued that Family First's objectives were primarily political and not the provision of social, educational or other charitable services as defined under the Charities Act 2004[17][18]

Director Bob McCoskrie challenged the ruling, saying it was a ploy to "shut them up". It has also mentioned other charities that have challenged its stance on the abolition of parental corporal punishment, LGBT rights in New Zealand and other civil liberties and human rights issues, questioning their charitable entitlements [19] He expressed concern about the organisation's future if the deregistration decision remained in place, stating: "No longer will we be exempt from income tax and donations to Family First will no longer qualify for the donation rebate. This is despite it being a non-profit organisation funded purely by donation and gifts and relying heavily on volunteer time" [20] McCoskrie's concern was questioned by some critics of his organisation, given that Family First New Zealand listed the multinational religious right organisation World Congress of Families as one of the supporters for its "Forum on the Family 2012".[21]

On 22 June 2015, Family First appealed the Charity Registration Board's decision to deregister it in 2013. The group argued that their opposition to gay marriage had been the reason for their loss of charity status. The Charities Registration Board argued that Family First's main purpose was to promote a particularly point of view of family life and contended that the group did not advance religion or education, nor provide a benefit to all New Zealanders as required by the law.[22] On 30 June, the High Court ruled in favour of Family First and allowed it to keep its tax-free charity status. This development was welcomed by the organization's founder Bob McCoskrie as a victory for charities that advocate for difference causes in the context of an earlier landmark Supreme Court decision which recognised Greenpeace's political advocacy as a charitable act.[23]

On 21 August 2017, the Charity Registration Board stripped Family First of its charitable status on the grounds that the group's promotion of its views on marriage and traditional family could not be classified as being charitable for the public benefit. In response, Family First's National Director McCroskie announced that Family First would be appealing the board's decision in court.[24][25] On 30 April 2018, the High Court in Wellington heard Family First's second appeal against the Charity Registration Board's decision to strip of its charitable status.[26]

Into the RiverEdit

On 6 September 2015, Family First successfully appealed a decision by New Zealand's classification office to lift an R14 restriction on the New Zealand author Ted Dawe's Into the River, a young adult novel about a Māori youth named Te Arepa Santos' experiences at an Auckland boarding school. Since its publication in 2012, Into the River had drawn controversy for its explicit description of sex, drugs, and coarse language. As a result of the appeal, the book was placed under an interim restriction order under New Zealand's Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993, banning it completely from being sold or supplied in New Zealand.[27] This was the first time a book had been banned in New Zealand in 22 years. News of the ban was also reported by several foreign media outlets.[28][29][30]

Family First's actions were criticised by Ted Dawe, the book's publisher Penguin Random House, the poet C.K. Stead, and several librarians as amounting to censorship. In response to public criticism, the organisation's president Bob McCroskie asserted that his organisation had not called for the book to be banned but had merely wanted censors to reinstate the book's R14 rating and require that copies of the book carry a warning sticker. In addition, McCroskie also called for a wider film-like sticker rating system for books citing parental concerns and age appropriateness. Family First also claimed that the Classification Office had received 400 letters about the book from concerned parents.[31][32] In a press statement, Family First also argued that the New Zealand Bill of Rights stated that "freedom of expression" and "freedom to access information" did not trump censorship laws aimed at protecting the "public good".[33]

On 14 October 2015, the Film and Literature Board lifted the interim ban on Into the River; ruling by a majority that while aspects of the book were offensive it did not merit an age restriction. In response, McCroskie accused the board of succumbing to book industry pressure despite what he alleged was the book's "highly offensive and gratuitous language, adult themes and graphic sexual content".[34]


Family First has also launched a website called "Ask Me First" to oppose efforts to allow transgender women access to female bathrooms, toilets, and lockers.[35] On 19 February, Family First drew significant media attention when it released a YouTube video entitled "Ask Me First About School Toilet Privacy: Laura" which focused on a high school girl and her mother's opposition to a transgender student using the female toilets at her school.[36] Several transgender and LBGT rights activists including Tranzaction spokesperson Linda Whitehead and RainbowYouth spokesperson Toni Duder criticized Family First for promoting transphobia.[37][38]

Proposed birth certificate changesEdit

Family First has also objected to the New Zealand Government's proposal to ease the process for changing one's gender on their birth certificate. While applicants wanting to change the gender on their birth certificate currently have to go through a lengthy process in the Family Court, the Government proposes it with a simple statutory declaration. Family First Director McCoskrie claimed that changing birth certificates would promote unscientific gender ideology and tell medical professionals "that they got it wrong at time of birth."[39][40]

Abortion law reformEdit

Family First has opposed the Labour-led coalition government's new legislation to remove abortion from the Crimes Act 1961 and to allow unrestricted access to abortion for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The group described the government's proposed legislation as "deeply anti-human rights."[41]


  1. ^ "Introducing the Family First Lobby" (PDF). Family First New Zealand. 2006-03-31. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 15, 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-10. Retrieved 2019-08-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Laugesen, Ruth (2008-01-27). "Petition organisers close to target". Sunday Star Times.
  5. ^ Johnstone, Martin (2008-04-30). "Petition for anti-smacking law referendum 15,000 short". New Zealand Herald.
  6. ^ "Govt Can Save $8m By Fixing Smacking Law Now". Voxy. 2008-05-07. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
  7. ^ "Value Your Vote". 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Press release: 'Value Your Vote' Website Launched for Families". 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  9. ^ "Press release: Super City Mayoral Candidates Questioned on Issues". 26 May 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  10. ^ "Anti-gay marriage petition attracts jokers". 3 News NZ. July 30, 2012.
  11. ^ 72,000 sign against gay marriage
  12. ^ Shock poll over gay marriage bill
  13. ^
  14. ^ Band demanding removal of song from site Archived 2012-11-03 at the Wayback Machine. Gaynz.Com 30.07.2012:
  15. ^ "US band hit out at NZ anti-gay website". 3 News NZ. August 12, 2012.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Family First no longer a charity". 3 News NZ. May 6, 2013.
  18. ^ Charities Registration Board: Decision D2013-1: Family First New Zealand: (CC42358): Archived 2013-06-12 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Family First fights for charity status". 3 News NZ. May 27, 2013.
  20. ^ "NZ organisation deregistered as charity for views on marriage" Christian Today (Australia):
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Family First appeals deregistration". New Zealand Herald. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  23. ^ Wong, Simon (1 July 2015). "Family First charity status to be reconsidered". 3 News. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  24. ^ "Charities Registration Board strips Family First of charitable status". 22 August 2017. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  25. ^ "Family First stripped of charity status". New Zealand Herald. 21 August 2017. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Family First goes to court in hopes of regaining charity status". Radio New Zealand. 30 April 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  27. ^ Simon Collins (7 September 2015). "'Will I be burnt next?' - Into the River author Ted Dawe on book banning". New Zealand Herald.
  28. ^ McKirdy, Euan (8 September 2015). "New Zealand bans young adult novel; first book ban in 22 years". CNN. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  29. ^ "New Zealand: Award-winning Into the River novel banned". BBC News. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  30. ^ Roy, Eleanor Ainge (7 September 2015). "New Zealand bans award-winning teenage novel after outcry from Christian group". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  31. ^ Cooke, Henry (7 September 2015). "Racy teen novel Into the River banned after Family First complaint". Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  32. ^ "Family First president Bob McCoskrie: I never wanted Into the River banned". New Zealand Herald. 8 September 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  33. ^ "Family group puts halt on explicit book". Family First New Zealand. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  34. ^ Groves, Nancy (14 October 2015). "Ban lifted on New Zealand young adult novel Into the River". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  35. ^ "Ask Me First homepage". Ask Me First. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  36. ^ "ASK ME FIRST About School Toilet Privacy: Laura". You Tube. 19 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  37. ^ "Family First accused of transphobia with bathroom campaign". Newstalk ZB. 22 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  38. ^ "Kiwi teen hits out in video over school's transgender toilet policy". New Zealand Herald. 22 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  39. ^ Chetwin-Kelly, Bridie (12 August 2018). "Family First slams 'disturbing' birth certificate changes". Newshub. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  40. ^ "MPs recommend easier process to change sex on birth certificate". Family First New Zealand. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  41. ^ "Radical Abortion Law Reform Is Deeply Anti-Human Rights". Family First New Zealand. 4 August 2019. Retrieved 8 August 2019.

External linksEdit