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Race Relations Commissioner Fails to Deliver

Race Relations Commissioner Fails to Deliver

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Friday 7 April 2006

“This week, the Commissioner has shown his political colours and made comments which severely impact on his ability to achieve ‘harmonious relations’ with Maori”, says Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party.

One of the Race Relations Commission’s primary functions under the new Human Rights Amendment Act 2001 is to “encourage the development and maintenance of harmonious relations between individuals and the diverse groups that make up New Zealand society”.

“What Mr de Bres has done instead, is to overlook the fact that Maori throughout the country have responded to the report of the Special Rapporteur with, as CTU Vice President Maori, Sharon Clair has said “joy, hope and a sense of relief….that Maori hopes and aspirations are affirmed through a respected institution like the United Nations”.

Race Relations Conciliator, Joris de Bres, has called the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people “divisive and unconstructive”

“In choosing to ignore the fact that Maori individuals and organisations throughout the country have been delighted with the report, Mr de Bres has abdicated his responsibilities to his role” said Mrs Turia. “Indeed, such blatant disregard for a report which is clearly supported by tangata whenua is both ‘divisive and unconstructive’.”

“The rights of indigenous peoples are stated as central to the Race Relation Office’s strategic framework for future work on race relations, and yet here we have a report which provides a strong benchmark to measure progress being chucked out before the jury has even come in”.

Mr de Bres also complained that “the report provides no direction for the future” and that “while iwi may seek out international opinion the debate needs to be had at home”.

“The report is absolutely crammed full of suggestions for areas we need to improve, including 22 specific recommendations” said Mrs Turia.

“I found the Rapporteur’s concluding comments particularly helpful and am extremely disappointed that the Race Relations Conciliator has chosen to reject the opportunity Professor Stavenhagen provided for further debate” said Mrs Turia.

The Special Rapporteur’s report issues a challenge for future planning:

“These wider constitutional and societal issues need to be debated responsibly and democratically by all social and political actors concerned because their solution will determine the kind of society New Zealand will be in the future”.

“Racism is the fundamental driver of inequality in Aotearoa. When naming racism, it is natural that there is a backlash. However, I hardly expected one from the ‘Race Relations Conciliator’” said Mrs Turia.

I will be registering my concerns with the Minister of Justice”.

ENDS

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