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Commission mourns loss of a great New Zealander

Human Rights Commission mourns the loss of a great New Zealander

The Human Rights Commission paid tribute today to historian and writer Michael King, who died in a car accident with his wife Maria yesterday.

"Michael King was an outstanding New Zealander, who leaves behind a legacy of writing that has changed the way we see ourselves. He has opened up New Zealand's history, both our Maori and Pakeha culture, in a way that no-one has equalled", said Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan.

"He resolutely and bravely documented and communicated both Maori and Pakeha history and culture, despite criticism from many quarters, and the many strands of his work came together in his Penguin History of New Zealand published last year. He communicated an honest and inclusive vision of New Zealand that is vitally important for our future."

The last paragraph of his History of New Zealand sums up this vision. It reads:

"And most New Zealanders, whatever their cultural backgrounds, are good-hearted, practical, commonsensical and tolerant. These qualities are part of the national cultural capital that has in the past saved the country from the worst excesses of chauvinism and racism seen in other parts of the world. They are as sound a basis as any for optimism about the country's future."

"He had an extraordinary ability to speak to a wide range of different audiences, through books, journalism, public speaking and interviews, and made a measured, thoughtful and original contribution to the current debate on race relations." We share in the enormous sense of loss that is being felt by all New Zealanders." Ms Noonan said.

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