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; 44 years ago (1977)
Key document

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 – Prof Paul Hunt
Race Relations CommissionerMeng Foon[2]
EEO (Equal Employment Opportunities) Commissioner – Dr Karanina Sumeo
Disability Rights CommissionerPaula Tesoriero, MNZM

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

Race RelationsEdit

The 1993 Act transformed the previous Race Relations Conciliator into a Race Relations Commissioner. Holders of the position have been:[3][4]

International statusEdit

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 rightsEdit

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' is an update of the Commissions' first report in 2004, and will lead its work for the next five years.[14] The report notes 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 identifies 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 processesEdit

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]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Section 5(1), Human Rights Act 1993, New Zealand Parliamentary Counsel Office
  2. ^ "Race Relations Commissioner appointed".
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ "Race Relations Commissioners and Conciliators mark significant anniversary". Human Rights Commission. 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Race Relations Commissioner appointed".
  6. ^ "Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy". 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Joris de Bres // New Zealand 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.
  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. ^ "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,
  11. ^ "Massey News | Honouring Hiwi Tauroa". 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ "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.
  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.

External linksEdit