Concern raised over Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith's planned changes to national anti-racism plan

The acting Race Relations Commissioner, Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo, wants Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith to explain why he's trying to water down the experiences of Māori.
The acting Race Relations Commissioner, Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo, wants Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith to explain why he's trying to water down the experiences of Māori. Photo credit: Newshub / Supplied.

The acting Race Relations Commissioner has slammed the Justice Minister for trying to water down the experiences of Māori in the national anti-racism strategy.

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith plans to cut back on references to Māori who have experienced racism in the National Action Plan Against Racism (NAPAR).

Acting Race Relations Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo said on Thursday she wants Goldsmith to explain.

"I'm extremely concerned that this could in effect be denial of the experiences of racism that Māori endure constantly in Aotearoa."

Dr Sumeo said racism in Aotearoa is enabled by individuals and within institutions, and it has deep roots.

"The ongoing harms to and losses for Māori must therefore be addressed in a NAPAR if we truly want to eliminate racism," she added.

It comes after the National Iwi Chairs Forum pulled out of the anti-racism working group on Wednesday, citing the Coalition Government's reduced focus on institutional and colonial racism against Māori.

The Forum said the Government's plans were contradictory to an equitable partnership.

Back in February, iwi leaders said the Government was carrying out a "sustained attack on Māori" through its policies.

The previous Labour-led Government agreed to put in place a National Action Plan following the 2019 terrorist attacks in Ōtautahi/Christchurch. It launched three years later.

Māori are amongst the most likely to experience racism in Aotearoa, said Julia Whaipooti, tino rangatiratanga shared leader at Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission (HRC).

"This continues today with many Tangata Whenua saying they can feel unsafe in almost every environment," Whaipooti said.

Ninety-three percent of Māori in Aotearoa say racism affects them every day, according to a 2021 study

Experiences of racism can include: racial profiling in stores, being less likely to receive service, the invalidation of Māori knowledge, misrepresentation in the media, and mispronunciation of Māori names, words, and language, among others.

Whaipooti said racism is systemic due to the past and present effects of colonisation, adding that the Government should show it's listening by addressing racism against all ethnic groups.

Racism, indigenous rights, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty) are now under global scrutiny, as the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples tours the country.

Francisco Calí Tzay is meeting this week with Māori organisations, iwi, and hapū leaders, alongside indigenous legal experts and the HRC at the Designing Our Constitution 2024 conference.

It comes on the back of a 2022 report by the HRC, which lists experiences of racism towards tangata whenua and wider society. 

And in another report, from 2023, the HRC laid out the impact of colonisation, racism, and white supremacy on tangata whenua.

The Government set up a working group in 2022 to come up with an anti-racism action plan, co-led by the Justice Ministry and the National Iwi Chairs Forum.

But on Wednesday, the Forum said their involvement is no longer tenable.

Justice Minister responds

In response to Dr Sumeo's comments, Paul Goldsmith said he "provided direction" on an early draft of the anti-racism plan, saying it should focus on racism against "all groups".

"Racism against anyone is unacceptable," he said.

Goldsmith said the public will have the chance to give feedback before the plan is finalised.

"This does not negate the voice of Māori and their experiences of racism. Rather I want to bring into focus the experience of all New Zealanders."

Regarding the Iwi Chairs Forum's decision, Goldsmith told RNZ he found out about it via a media release.

"They of course don't speak for all Māori," Goldsmith claimed.

"I certainly reject any allegations that - they've made broad statements about the Government - and the fact that we're somehow pursuing an agenda which is anti-Māori, which we do not agree with whatsoever."

He said the Government doesn't think the Iwi Forum's reasons are a "fair summation of what we're trying to achieve."