Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Farewells Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt
Outgoing Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt brought a deep commitment to the dignity and mana of all people, says Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission.
Hunt challenged the government to be accountable for its full range of human rights and Te Tiriti promises. He also worked to highlight the obligations of businesses to advance human rights in their sphere of influence.
Hunt’s five-year term as Chief Commissioner covered unprecedented events in Aotearoa New Zealand’s history, including the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques on March 15 2019, the Covid 19 pandemic, extreme weather events, and escalating online harm.
Hunt has been a champion of human rights including the right to a decent home, which requires access to warm, dry, safe and affordable housing for everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Commission launched an inquiry and its reports called for MPs and policy makers to treat housing as a human right, saying no future generation should face a housing crisis.
He deplored governments’ failure to appoint neither a representative of tangata whenua to the Commission’s Board, nor an Indigenous Rights Commissioner, since 2017, and he consistently argued that non-Māori have nothing to fear from te Tiriti and much to gain.
“The National Iwi Chairs Forum has appreciated the enduring and respectful relationship Paul Hunt helped build between the Commission and the Forum. From the outset, he championed the appointment of an Indigenous Rights Commissioner, not only to ensure that Māori human rights guaranteed in Te Tiriti are upheld, but also that the internationally recognised human rights of Indigenous Peoples are available to and enjoyed by Māori. Commission projects have helped lift Māori communities and provided much needed support and advice.
“The Commission’s appointment in 2023 of Te Rongomau Taketake to lead this work was ground-breaking and long overdue, and saw important and reliable information being made widely available. The Forum thanks Paul for the huge and positive contributions he has made and wishes him and his whānau all the best.”
Margaret Mutu, Chair, National Iwi Chairs Forum
“One of Paul's major functions has been to chair the National Preventive Mechanismi which he has done with great flair, enthusiasm and efficiency. He has promoted a warm and functional relationship with those he has worked with and I pay tribute to his intellectual rigour and integrity.”
Peter Boshier, Chief Ombudsman (see footnote)
“Paul was determined to see human rights discussed, understood, relevant, and applicable to everyday life, rather than how it is sometimes perceived as a matter for lawyers and courts. His view reflected what organically and commonly occurred in local communities, workplaces, and networks where ‘causes’ grow from an experience of loss, injustice, or harm into a sense of empowerment and self-determination. This is human rights in action.”
Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo, Acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Acting Race Relations Commissioner, and Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner
“Since I commenced the role of Disability Rights Commissioner, Paul has been an encouraging support for me and for the rights of disabled people. I have appreciated his knowledge and the respect he has for people and their rights.”
Prudence Walker, Disability Rights Commissioner
Paul Hunt brought his internationally-renowned and world-leading knowledge and expertise in human rights to Te Kāhui Tika Tangata. He is admired globally for his advocacy, including within the United Nations. Aotearoa New Zealand has been so fortunate to have such a champion of human rights. Our nation is all the better for it. Paul has been fearless and determined in his advocacy for the human rights of all New Zealanders, including tangata whenua right to self-determination under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and te Tiriti o Waitangi. Paul has again and again shown his deep commitment to the rights of Indigenous peoples within and outside Te Kāhui Tika Tangata.
On a personal level, it has been a joy to work with Paul. His good humour and support for his colleagues, including me, has been unrelenting. I have learned so much from him.
Professor Claire Charters, Rongomau Taketake, Te Kāhui Tika Tangata
“Paul has been a consistent advocate, to the highest levels of government and publicly, using the institutional power at his disposal to support the human rights of communities that suffer harm in so many ways. He provided personal and legal support to victim families at the release of the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry in the Terrorist Attacks on Christchurch Masjidain.
“In our dealings, he has been responsive, compassionate, and very often courageous in both his words and his actions. He will be sorely missed in the role.”
Anjum Rahman, Co-Lead, Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono
“Bringing clarity, fairness and a clear sense to the Rights of people, their Responsibilities (of Government, Community and individuals) and Relationships in accordance the New Zealand’s Human Rights Act, Bill of Rights and Te Tiriti are key achievements of Paul’s admirable contribution as the Chief Human Rights Commissioner. Paul’s reflections and sensibilities in articulating people’s truth to power has been a huge stand out.
“We have valued Paul’s strong stand in clarifying the right to decent housing and good health as basic human rights. Multicultural New Zealand has always valued the relationship with the Human Rights Commission. Paul in his role has not only strengthened it but has also been instrumental in helping us build stronger bridges with tangata whenua around the motu as we, as New Zealanders journey towards a truly Tiriti-based multicultural society. MNZ wholeheartedly thanks Paul for his exemplary contribution to New Zealand.
Pancha Narayanan, President, Multicultural New Zealand
“Paul’s visit to our transitional housing and rent-to-buy homes in 2022 helped our residents understand they have rights when it comes to housing, including that everyone should have access to a warm, dry, and affordable home. More broadly, he has helped shift the dial from housing being seen as a commodity in Aotearoa to it being understood as a human right, which also must be understood alongside te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
Toddy Shepherd, Chief Executive, He Korowai Trust
Leading a national human rights institution is a crucial but complex responsibility. We have been lucky to benefit from Paul's deep understanding of human rights and his nuanced understanding of the unique context of Aotearoa New Zealand and the place of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In the brief time I have worked with Paul, I have admired the calibre of his experience internationally and domestically, his willingness to engage and collaborate, and his determined focus on building a rights respecting Aotearoa."
Meg de Ronde, Chief Executive, Te Kāhui Tika Tangata
Ko te amorangi ki mua, ko te hāpai ō ki muri. Paul has led the Commission, and in particular, our journey to become a Tiriti-based organisation, with integrity, courage, humility and absolute commitment to the kaupapa. We are grateful for his willingness to act on the Commission’s Tiriti commitment, and acknowledge the progress achieved under his leadership. He is committed to living up to the promises of Te Tiriti and to making human rights real for all people. We have appreciated Paul’s collaborative leadership style and his desire to weave people together.
Paul is incredibly well respected internationally for his human rights work, and brought his intellect, experience and deep knowledge of human rights to his role, while ensuring that the Commission stayed grounded in the context of Aotearoa and the everyday realities of whānau and communities.
Rawhia Te Hau-Grant and Manawa Pomare, Acting Co-Pou Arahi and Ahi Kaa, Te Kāhui Tika Tangata
 One role of Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission is as the Central National Preventive Mechanism which co-ordinates the four independent bodies in Aotearoa New Zealand that monitor the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. The four bodies are the Ombudsman, the Independent Police Conduct Authority, Mana Mokopuna Children and Young People’s Commission, and the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments.