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UN report on New Zealand race relations

Human Rights Commission

Media Release

18 August 2007

Human Rights Commission welcomes UN report on New Zealand race relations

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's report on New Zealand's race relations, released today, has been welcomed by the Human Rights Commission.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, who attended the Committee's session on New Zealand in Geneva two weeks ago, said the Committee had provided a balanced report card, identifying both areas of significant achievement and issues that were worthy of further discussion within New Zealand.

Mr de Bres said "There will be differing views about some of the issues raised, particularly in relation to constitutional issues, the Treaty and the Waitangi Tribunal, but the Committee's recommendations are just that - issues viewed from an international perspective that can inform discussion within New Zealand."

The report will be discussed at the New Zealand Diversity Forum in Auckland next week, and MPs from major parties have been asked to comment on the recommendations when they address the forum on their parties' race relations policies.

Mr de Bres noted that there were four issues on which the Committee had asked for a report back in 12 months time. These were the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Deletion Bill, the need for renewed dialogue on the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the place of the Treaty in the school curriculum and access to education for all undocumented children (i.e. children without approved immigration status).

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"The Commission supports the Committee's recommendations on all four of these issues. We are hopeful that the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Deletion Bill will not proceed, and that the Treaty will be restored as a guiding principle in the school curriculum. We hope that the issue of access to education for undocumented children can be addressed in the context of the Immigration Bill currently before Parliament."

"With regard to the foreshore and seabed, the Commission supports renewed dialogue on the issue, but recognises that this may take time. We told the United Nations that the legislation had produced deep divisions in society, and that the responsibility to heal these lay with all elected representatives, not solely the Government of the day. We said we hoped that in due course means would be found to establish more common ground, given that both Maori and the Crown had expressed a desire to guarantee both public access and Maori customary rights."

For further detail on the CERD Committee's recommendations, see below.

For the Race Relations Commissioner's statement to the CERD committee, click here .

For further information contact Joris de Bres on 021 279 0737.

Major Recommendations by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The Committee welcomed

* The adoption of the New Zealand Settlement Strategy and National Plan of Action,
* The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme,
* Progress in the reduction of socio-economic disparities with regard to Maori and Pacific communities,
* The significant improvement in the status of the Maori language, and
* The increase in the 2007 Budget for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

The Committee recommended that the Government:

* Take steps to implement the New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights,
* Promote continued public discussion on the constitutional status of the Treaty of Waitangi and its place in legislation,
* Ensure that affected communities participate in any review of targeted policies and programmes, and inform the public about the importance of special measures to ensure equality,
* Ensure that the cut-off date for lodging historical Treaty claims does not unfairly bar legitimate claims,
* Consider granting the Waitangi Tribunal legally binding powers of adjudication and increase funding for the Tribunal,
* Further engage with the Maori community on the foreshore and seabed,
* Include references to the Treaty in the new New Zealand Curriculum,
* Increase efforts to address the over-representation of Maori and Pacific people at every stage of the criminal justice system,
* Ensure that schools are open to all undocumented children,
* Put an end to the detention of asylum-seekers in correctional facilities, and ensure grounds for refusing asylum-seekers are consistent with international standards,
* Collect statistical data on complaints, prosecutions and sentences for racially motivated crimes, and
* Adopt pro-active measures to improve access to procedures for complaints about racial discrimination.


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