Human Rights Commission (New Zealand)

The Human Rights Commission (Māori: Te Kāhui Tika Tangata) is the national human rights institution (NHRI) for New Zealand. It operates as an independent Crown entity, and is independent from direction by the Cabinet.

Human Rights Commission
Te Kāhui Tika Tangata
Independent Crown entity overview
Formed1977; 47 years ago (1977)
HeadquartersLevel 8, 44–52 The Terrace, Wellington 6011
Independent Crown entity executives
Key document

Legislation and functions


The commission was formed in 1977, and currently functions under the mandate of the Human Rights Act 1993. The Office of the Race Relations Conciliator was consolidated with the Human Rights Commission by an amendment to the Human Rights Act in 2001. The commission's primary functions are to "advocate and promote respect for, and an understanding and appreciation of, human rights in New Zealand society, and to encourage the maintenance and development of harmonious relations between individuals and among the diverse groups in New Zealand society".[1]

The commission's functions include providing a dispute resolution service for complaints of unlawful discrimination, and racial or sexual harassment.



Chief Commissioner – Dr Karanina Sumeo (acting)
Race Relations CommissionerDr Karanina Sumeo (acting)
EEO (Equal Employment Opportunities) Commissioner – Dr Karanina Sumeo (acting)
Disability Rights Commissioner – Prudence Walker ,

Jeremy Pope served as a Commissioner until his death in August 2012.

Race relations


The 1993 Act transformed the previous Race Relations Conciliator into a Race Relations Commissioner. Holders of the position have been:[2][3]

International status


The commission is one of some 70 NHRIs accredited by the International Co-ordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC), a body sponsored by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The commission's "A status" accreditation allows it special access to the United Nations human rights system, including speaking rights at the Human Rights Council and other committees. The commission has presented parallel reports ("shadow reports") to several UN treaty committees examining New Zealand's compliance with international human rights instruments. From 2010 to 2012 the Commission chaired the ICC, and the Asia Pacific Forum of NHRIs, one of four regional sub-groups of NHRIs.



Review of human rights


In 2010 the Commission conducted a publicly available review of human rights in New Zealand in order to both identify the areas in which New Zealand does well, and where it could do better to combat persistent social problems. The 'report card' was an update of the Commission's first report in 2004, and led its work for the next five years.[14] The report noted steady improvements in New Zealand's human rights record since 2004, but also "the fragility of some of the gains and areas where there has been deterioration."[15] In the report, the Commission identified thirty priority areas for action on human rights in New Zealand under a number of sections: general; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; and rights of specific groups.[15]

Inquiry into culture and processes


In February 2018, Justice Minister Andrew Little commissioned an ministerial inquiry into the commission by retired judge Coral Shaw, following media reports of a sexual harassment scandal there.[16] Sunday Star-Times journalist Harrison Christian had earlier reported a young American woman cut short her internship at the commission after she was groped by the organisation's chief financial officer at a work party.[17] Shaw's review found the commission had failed in its handling of sexual harassment claims.[18]

Housing Inquiry


In August 2021, the Human Rights Commission launched an inquiry into the housing crisis, stating that successive governments had failed to meet their obligations according to international law, specifically to the right to a decent home.[19] The initial phase of the inquiry resulted in the release of a report focused on strengthening accountability and participation in the housing system, with further work done to develop a tool called "Measuring Progress", designed to evaluate the state of housing against key indicators and international human rights obligations.[20] The second phase of the inquiry has been on emergency housing and the conditions and protections of renters as key topic areas.[20] The inquiry is expected to conclude mid-2023.[20]

2023 resignation of race relations commissioner


On 16 June 2023, Meng Foon resigned from his position as Race Relations Commissioner after failing to declare several conflicts of interest as required under the Crown Entities Act. Foon served as the director of an emergency housing company that had received income from government payments including over NZ$2 million in emergency accommodation funding. The Human Rights Commission had conducted an internal investigation into Foon's interests including emergency accommodation funding.[13][21] Foon disputed that he had failed to declare his conflict of interest regarding the emergency accommodation funding and claimed that he had declared these interests prior to assuming his role as Race Relations Commissioner.[21] Earlier in April 2023, Foon had attracted controversy for donating to both members of the Labour and National parties.[22]

See also



  1. ^ Section 5(1), Human Rights Act 1993, New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office
  2. ^ "Race Relations Conciliators Interviewed". 2006. Retrieved 12 October 2011. The first Conciliator, Sir Guy Powles, was appointed in December 1971 and held the post for 18 months. He was succeeded by Harry Dansey. Subsequent Conciliators have been Hiwi Tauroa, Walter Hirsh, Chris Laidlaw, John Clarke, Rajen Prasad, Gregory Fortuin and Joris de Bres. The current Race Relations Commissioner is Susan Devoy.
  3. ^ "Race Relations Commissioners and Conciliators mark significant anniversary". Human Rights Commission. 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Powles, Guy Richardson – Biography – Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand". 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. Government confidence in the office became such that the ombudsman's responsibilities were extended to cover hospital boards and education authorities (1968) and territorial and other local government authorities (1975). From 1971 to 1973 Powles was also race relations conciliator. He undertook special inquiries into the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Auckland maximum security prison at Paremoremo. Designated chief ombudsman in 1975, he retired on 5 April 1977. In September 1976 the International Ombudsman Conference, meeting at Edmonton, Canada, carried a unanimous vote of appreciation and respect for Sir Guy Powles. From May to October 1978 he was resident consultant at the International Ombudsman Institute in Edmonton.
  5. ^ "Massey News | Honouring Hiwi Tauroa". 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Inmagic DB/Text WebPublisher PRO: 1 records". 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. FIRST MAORI PRINCIPAL of a SECONDARY SCHOOL Thought to be Mr Edward Te Rangihiwinui Tauroa of Wesley College, Paerata.
  7. ^ "G21 ASIA – 'Fortuin's Challenge'". 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2011. he took up the post as New Zealand Race Relations Conciliator, in succession to Rajen Prasad , on May 1st,
  8. ^ "RELATIONS CONCILIATOR OF NEW ZEALAND". 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. Statement by Gregory Fortuin, Race Relations Conciliator
  9. ^ "Race Relations Conciliator Gregory Fortuin – South Africans". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. With a mixed racial African and Afrikaner background, Gregory Fortuin, shown here in 2001, grew up near Cape Town. Classified as a 'coloured', he experienced discrimination under the apartheid regime. He took his family to live in Australia in 1986, and arrived in New Zealand in 1991. He was New Zealand's race relations conciliator from 2001 to 2002.
  10. ^ "Joris de Bres". Human Rights Commission. 2011. Archived from the original on 17 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. Joris de Bres has been New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner since 2002. He was previously General Manager, External Relations in the Department of Conservation and head of industrial relations for the New Zealand Public Service Association.
  11. ^ "Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy". 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  12. ^ Little, Andrew (11 July 2019). "Race Relations Commissioner appointed". New Zealand Government. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Meng Foon resigns as Race Relations Commissioner". Radio New Zealand. 16 June 2023. Archived from the original on 17 June 2023. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  14. ^ "Human Rights in New Zealand 2010". Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  15. ^ a b Human Rights in New Zealand 2010, Human Rights Commission
  16. ^ "Government orders review of culture at HRC after sexual harassment scandal". Stuff.
  17. ^ "Human Rights Commission finance boss sexually harasses young intern, keeps job". Stuff.
  18. ^ "Human Rights Commission failed following sexual harassment claims – review". Stuff.
  19. ^ "Human Rights Commission launches national inquiry into housing crisis". RNZ. 2 August 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  20. ^ a b c "Inquiry into the Right to a Decent Home". Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  21. ^ a b "Meng Foon resigns after $2m in Govt payments not 'adequately declared'". 1 News. TVNZ. 16 June 2023. Archived from the original on 17 June 2023. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  22. ^ Witton, Bridie (21 April 2023). "Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon donated to both Labour and National". Stuff. Archived from the original on 21 April 2023. Retrieved 17 June 2023.