Human Rights Commission calls for Government to stand by promises to make NZ fairer

"Now it's time for the government to take these commitments seriously."
"Now it's time for the government to take these commitments seriously." Photo credit: Getty.

By Eleisha Foon of RNZ

The Human Rights Commission is calling on the Government to stand by its promises to make New Zealand fairer for all people.

It has released a report on Thursday featuring 39 issues highlighted by all four Human Rights Commissioners. The report asks the Government to commit to implement affordable homes, a living wage, more employment opportunities for disabled people and a national action plan against racism.

"Now it's time for the Government to take these commitments seriously and do everything in its power to deliver for everyone," Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said.

The commission has highlighted a selection of these promises in Ko Ō Tika, ko Tō Reo/ Your Rights, Your Voice, and urges everyone to revisit and scrutinise them at the same time as the new government is set to be sworn in.

"We want the Government to take those promises seriously and if they take them seriously, it will help to ensure that policies deliver for everybody."

Hunt said the report was based on what communities wanted including improvement in housing, employment and rights for people with disabilities. These are considered among the most important requirements for the everyday lives of individuals and communities throughout New Zealand.

"Human rights help to create fair societies. Although successive governments have promised to advance national and international human rights and Te Tiriti, public officials do not always take these promises into account when they advise ministers, design policies and implement laws."

Hunt said human rights belong to everyone and are based on fairness, respect, equality, freedom, wellbeing, whanaungatanga (kinship), kaitiakitanga (stewardship), community and responsibility.

He said especially in the midst of a global pandemic, preventing poverty and elevating the marginalised shape as must-dos.

Some calls to action included in the report:

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt:

  • Improve New Zealand housing to ensure everyone has access to a warm, safe, dry home
  • Look after the environment as kaitiaki (guardian) for our children and grandchildren
  • Find the right balance between freedom of speech and the right to be safe
  • Honour and implement the growing partnership between kāwanatanga (Crown) and rangatiratanga (hapū and iwi)
  • Establish a Human Rights Commissioner for Older People

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo:

  • Make the minimum wage a living wage
  • Establish safe, trusted processes to deal with sexual harassment and bullying
  • End pay discrimination
  • Develop a national strategy to deal with family violence

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero

  • Make houses, transport and public places accessible so everyone can use them
  • Make the health and disability system work for all disabled people
  • Public information provided in ways, such as te reo Māori, NZ Sign Language, and braille so that everyone can understand
  • Collect better information about disabled people so services can be better designed for them

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon

  • Devise a national action plan against racism
  • Police to collect hate crime data
  • Establish a government ministry for ethnic communities
  • Equal rules for creating general and Māori wards