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Human Rights Commissioner Appointments

Media Statement

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER APPOINTMENTS

The Associate Minister of Justice, Margaret Wilson, has announced the appointment of Rosslyn Noonan as the new Chief Human Rights Commissioner.

Ms Wilson has also announced the appointment of Mr Gregory Fortuin as Race Relations Concilliator and Mr Michael Powles, Ms Ella Henry and Mr Warren Lindberg as Human Rights Commissioners.

"Each Commissioner brings a wealth of expertise and community involvement to the post. I look forward to working together with the Commission and the Race Relations Conciliator as we strengthen human rights protections in New Zealand".

Ms Noonan is appointed for a five-year term. The other appointments are until the 31st of March 2002. The current Proceedings Commissioner is Christopher Lawrence. His term expires on 23 June 2001. To ensure consistency with other appointments, Mr Lawrence is to be reappointed until 31 March 2002.

The shorter terms are because of the current re-evaluation of human rights protections in New Zealand. The re-evaluation report was publicly released as a discussion paper in October 2000. Submissions closed on 9 February 2001.

Key recommendations of the report included:

- the establishment of a new Human Rights Institution
- changes to clarify human rights law
- mechanisms to improve the incorporation of human rights considerations in the formation of policy and legislation and
- improving the New Zealand human rights environment through the development of a National Plan of Action.

Biographical information on the new Commissioners

Rosslyn Noonan has been a Human Rights Coordinator with Education International since 1996 and was formerly the National Secretary for the NZ Educational Institute and on the National Executive of the NZ Council of Trade Unions. She has broad experience working in the areas of conflict resolution, race, ethnic and religious relations in multicultural societies and gender equality. In addition, Ms Noonan possesses strong organisational management skills. These qualities will be particularly important for an incoming new Chief Commissioner in view of the changes that are likely to be made to the structure of the Human Rights Commission.

Mr Gregory Fortuin has been Managing Director of AXA Corporate Superannuation Services New Zealand from 1991. From 1987 to 1991 he was Corporate Business Services Manager with NML in Australia, and from 1974 to 1986 he worked in senior management positions with NML and Norwich Union in South Africa. He was appointed by Nelson Mandela to be the first resident South African representative in New Zealand (Honorary Consul) since 1984. He has also served on the Maori Development Commission.

Mr Michael Powles was Ambassador and Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations from 1996 to 2000. His previous experience in international relations is extensive, having served as New Zealand’s Ambassador to China and Indonesia, and as High Commissioner to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu, while resident in Suva. He is also a former Deputy Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for the South Pacific, North Asia, the United Nations, the Middle East and Africa. Mr Powles holds a Masters of Law from Victoria University.

Ms Ella Henry is the Assistant Director of the Mäori Indigenous Research and Development Unit at Auckland University. She was the Executive Director of the New Zealand branch of Greenpeace between 1994-1996. Ms Henry is of Ngati Kuri, Ngati Rehia no Kahu, and Te Rarawa descent. She is completing a PhD.

Mr Warren Lindberg is the Manager, Project to Counter Stigma and Discrimination Associated with Mental Illness at the Ministry of Health. From 1986 until 1998 he was the Executive Director of the NZ Aids Foundation. He holds a Master of Philosophy degree, a Certificate in Community Studies and a Diploma in Teaching. He has been involved in many voluntary community organisations and is currently a Trustee for the Auckland Drug Information Outreach and involved in an educational theatre group for Maori youth at risk.


Note:

Race Relations Conciliator

Dr Rajen Prasad stood down from the position of Race Relations Conciliator on 3 March 2001 having completed a five-year term in Office. Dr Prasad did not seek reappointment and the position has been filled on an interim basis until a new appointment is made, by Mr Bruce Slane, the Privacy Commissioner.

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