New Zealanders’ Dismal Access To Gender Affirmation Surgery Just Got a Bit Better

The Government is scrapping the limit on surgeries, but we still lack the medical professionals to perform them.
October 15, 2018, 10:22pm
NZ Government Lifts Limit on Gender Reassignment Surgery

New Zealand's government is lifting the firm cap on gender affirmation surgeries for transgender patients.

Publicly funded surgeries performed in New Zealand were previously limited to just three male-to-female and one female-to-male surgeries every two years.

Documents released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act reveal Associate Health Minister was seeking advice about the removal of the cap to increase the amount of surgeries given under the public health system. A spokesperson has confirmed the decision was made in June, and its estimated eight patients are already being “considered”.


James Shaw, who is relieving Genter’s Associate Health portfolio while she is on maternity leave, told Newsroom the decision was one step in the right direction.

“Our health system has never met the needs of transgender New Zealanders, and that has to change,” Shaw said.

“I am taking advice on what the next steps are to improve health care for transgender New Zealanders."

But removing the cap does not mean this is an overnight process. There are currently 105 people on the official waiting list for surgery, 79 male-to-female and 26 female-to-male. At the current rate of progress it would take 50 years to work through the list.

New Zealand has never had the expertise to perform female-to-male surgeries and has not been able to offer male-to-female surgeries either since the retirement of the only specialist in 2014. VICE spoke to Dr Peter Walker about his hopes for surgeons to train overseas and return in New Zealand to reboot the industry.

Since then, only a select few have had surgeries overseas, paid for by the High Cost Treatment Pool, an uncapped fund for one-off treatments otherwise not covered under the public system.

Ministry of Health figures put the average cost of male-to-female surgery at $53,382, with individual surgeries costing between $25,587 and $81,975. The costs for female-to-male surgery are much higher, averaging $218,892, with a range of $45,169 to $525,034.