Retain the Position of Race Relations Commissioner
6 March 2014
Retain the Position of Race Relations Commissioner, Pleads Multicultural New Zealand
New Zealand’s ethnic communities want the position of Race Relations Commissioner retained as it currently is in the Human Rights Act, Multicultural New Zealand, the Federation of Multicultural Councils told Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Commission today.
Executive Director Tayo Agunlejika told the Committee “We plead with you to retain the position of Race Relations Commissioner, as promised to us when the Race Relations Office was merged with the Human Rights Commission in 2002. It means a great deal to ethnic communities to have someone in the Human Rights Commission who can advocate for them and to whom they can turn for advice and support. “
Mr. Agunlejika said a recent review of the Human Rights Commission had already deprived the Race Relations Commissioner of a number of dedicated race relations staff, including a principal advisor, senior policy analyst, communications and research assistant and three race relations community advisors.
“This had made all support for the Commissioner contestable. To remove her specialist designation would be a further setback for us”, he said.
He said the ethnic communities represented by Multicultural New Zealand now comprise nearly 15 per cent of the population, and New Zealand is host to many thousands of international students and tourists from Asia and other regions.
“The Human Rights Act contains the only statutory position with specific responsibility to speak for us and to advocate for harmonious relations between diverse groups. We ask you to please keep that position there for us and for all New Zealanders, keep it visible and accessible through its title, and effective through its status within the Commission.”
He asked the Select Committee to heed the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s call last year to retain the designation of Race Relations Commissioner, and to maintain the independence of the office.
Full text of Multicultural NZ oral statement to the Select Committee
Full text of Multicultural NZ written submission to the Select Committee