Watch: The moment Amy Adams apologises on behalf of Government for convicting gay men for homosexual acts prior to 1986

The New Zealand Government today formally apologised for convicting gay men for homosexual acts prior to 1986.

Amy Adams, apologising on behalf of the Government today said: "It is never too late to apologise, while we cannot ever erase the injustice". Source: 1 NEWS

Justice Minister Amy Adams delivered the apology in Parliament before the first reading of a bill that will expunge historic convictions for homosexual acts.

"It is never too late to apologise," Ms Adams said.

The apology marked the introduction of long-awaited legislation that'll allow their offences to be wiped. Source: 1 NEWS

"While we cannot ever erase the injustice, this apology is a symbolic but important act.

"It's unimaginable today that we would criminalise consensual sexual activity between adults."

The 1961 Crimes Act outlawed male sex, whether it was consensual or not. 

The Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 legalised consensual sex between men aged 16 and older.

Speaking on the bill that will expunge men with criminal records who were convicted of homosexual acts, Adams said there were estimated around 1000 people who would be eligible.

“This bill seeks to address the ongoing stigma, prejudice and other negative effects arising from the conviction for a historical homosexual offence by creating a statutory scheme for a convicted person, or a representative of that person if that person is deceased, to apply to have the conviction expunged,” Adams said.

“It is clear that the laws under which the men affected were convicted have not represented the views of most New Zealanders for many years and it’s right that we formally recognise that.

“I cannot think of any other situation where a Government in this country would seek to rewrite criminal histories based on changes in societal views.

“It would be as if the conviction never existed.”

Last year, 1 NEWS revealed that men would get the right to apply for a pardon under the proposed new law.

In February, Ms Adams said she had considered the proposition when campaigners delivered a petition to parliament and she apologised for the trauma suffered by those convicted.

The offences which could be wiped include indecency between males, sodomy and keeping places of resort for homosexual acts.

The fight to change that met fierce resistance, and although reform won, convictions were never erased.

In late January, the United Kingdom issued thousands of posthumous pardons for homosexual acts which are now no longer considered a crime.

In the British system, there is already a process in place for the living to apply to have past convictions relating to same-sex relationships removed from their records.