Press Release – Peace Movement Aotearoa
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today completed its consideration of the combined eighteenth to twentieth periodic report of New Zealand on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Overview: Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers report of New Zealand
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today completed its consideration of the combined eighteenth to twentieth periodic report of New Zealand on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Presenting the report, Judith Collins, Minister of Justice and Minister for Ethnic Affairs, said that New Zealand took pride in the promotion of human rights and was taking measures to promote the equal treatment of all its citizens, reduce barriers to education, establish a comprehensive resettlement strategy for refugees, facilitate the integration of Maori in society, and address the disparities among different ethnic groups in collaboration with local communities. Steps were also being taken to reduce the number of working-age persons receiving benefits by 2017 and to reduce the incidence of offending and re-offending among Maori and Pacific people. An independent Constitutional Advisory Panel was currently reviewing New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, including Maori representation in Parliament and in local government.
Committee Experts noted that New Zealand had implemented most of the recommendations made during the last review; and asked questions about the status of the Treaty of Waitangi in domestic law, steps taken to tackle the problem of structural discrimination against Maori and Pacific people, the vulnerable state of the Maori and other community languages, the problem of hate language, and the situation of migrant workers. The Committee also raised issues related to the protection of Maori rights, the transposition into domestic legislation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the effects of Christchurch earthquakes and of the global economic crisis on vulnerable groups, the over-representation of Maori in New Zealand’s prison population, and disparities among different ethnic groups in education and employment.
In concluding remarks, Carlos Vázquez, Country Rapporteur for New Zealand, said that the human rights situation in New Zealand was very positive and that remaining challenges were being addressed. He noted that there were many examples of best practices which would be recommended to other countries. The Committee recommended that close attention was paid to continued consultations with the Maori community on matters affecting them.
Judith Collins, Minister of Justice and Minister for Ethnic Affairs, thanked the Committee for their insightful questions and said that New Zealand pursued an evolutionary and sometimes revolutionary approach in its fight against racial discrimination.
The delegation of New Zealand included representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for Ethnic Affairs, the Ministry of Maori Development, the Crown Law Office, and the Permanent Mission of New Zealand to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, 22 February, when it will begin its consideration of the combined thirteenth and fourteenth periodic report of the Dominican Republic (CERD/C/DOM/13-14).
The combined eighteenth to twentieth periodic report of New Zealand can be read here (CERT/NZL/18-20).
Presentation of the Report
JUDITH COLLINS, Minister of Justice and Minister for Ethnic Affairs, said that New Zealand, a multi-racial and multi-cultural nation, took pride in the promotion of human rights and the equal treatment of all its citizens. The ancestors of the indigenous Maori had arrived in New Zealand a thousand years ago and by the late 18th century there had been over 100,000 Maori in the country. Europeans had started settling in New Zealand around the same time and continued to arrive in increasing numbers during the 19th century. The British Crown, which gained the right to govern New Zealand, had guaranteed Maori full protection of their interests and status. In 1867 the Parliament had established four Maori seats to give Maori a direct say in the political life of New Zealand. The Maori seats remained in Parliament today and the Treaty of Waitangi was recognized as the nation’s founding document.
In 1975 New Zealand had established the Waitangi Tribunal to hear Maori grievances against the Crown for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. Resolution of Maori grievances was achieved through Treaty settlements, which were agreements between the Crown and Maori claimant groups and included cultural, financial or commercial redress. Since 1975, 59 Deeds of Settlement had been signed between the Crown and Maori. In 2008, New Zealand set the goal of settling all historical Treaty of Waitangi claims by 2014.
In the mid-1960s, persons from the Pacific had started coming to New Zealand and today the country’s Pacific population was around 230,000. New Zealand’s immigration policy had changed in 1975 and 1987 and the primary criterion for admitting immigrants was qualifications, not race. A large flow of migrants had arrived from Asia and New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, was today home to around 200 different ethnic groups. Many New Zealanders identified with more than one ethnicity and inter-ethnic marriages were a common phenomenon.
For New Zealand the Pacific island region was integral to its national identity and foreign policy, and a considerable proportion of New Zealand’s diplomatic resources were invested in the region. The maintenance of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in the Pacific region mattered greatly to New Zealand. Through the New Zealand Aid Programme the country contributed to the work of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which maintained two regional offices in the Pacific.
New Zealand was reducing barriers to education by funding schools to waive primary school fees in the Pacific, which had led to increased primary school enrolment. Sustainable and equitable access to safe water and sanitation to Pacific peoples to support improved public health and promote sustainable development.
Moreover, New Zealand remained actively engaged in peacekeeping and reconstruction missions in Afghanistan, Solomon Islands and East Timor. New Zealand police was part of the Pacific Prevention of Domestic Violence Programme, along with New Zealand Aid and the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police.
A comprehensive resettlement strategy for refugees had recently been put in place and 750 persons per year were accepted for resettlement. Women at risk, persons with disabilities, and persons with family already in New Zealand were allowed to settle in the country.
New Zealand was a constitutional monarchy and its political system was a unitary parliamentary democracy with a single government and legal system. Citizens could vote once they had been residents for a year. Maori representation in Parliament was a reflection of New Zealand’s population and underscored the country’s commitment to Maori integration.
An independent Constitutional Advisory Panel was currently reviewing aspects of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, including Maori representation in Parliament and in local government, and the role of the Treaty of Waitangi within constitutional arrangements.
New Zealand was committed to addressing disparities between different ethnic groups in collaboration with local communities. Aware that Maori and Pacific peoples tended to fare worse than the general population in the areas of health, education and employment, New Zealand had identified a set of key result areas for the public service under the banner “Better Public Services” and aimed to reduce crime, boost skills and employment, and support vulnerable children.
In the area of health, in particular, immunization had been prioritized and assistance was offered to pregnant Maori women so they would enrol with a physician before their babies were born. New Zealand had allocated 24 million dollars to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever. Other health problems targeted included mental illness, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
In the area of education, New Zealand had a high performing education system, although the gap between high and low performing students was very wide. The pattern was gradually changing and the rate of participation of Maori and Pacific people in education was increasing. National standards had been established to set clear expectations for students to meet in reading, writing and mathematics during their first eight years at school. Specific targets had been set to improve educational outcomes and new approaches were developed to improve the way in which the needs of vulnerable families were met. The teaching of Maori language and culture was part of the general school curriculum, and Maori was one of New Zealand’s official languages, along with English and sign languages.
New Zealand’s economy had been affected by the global financial crisis, which was reflected in a sharp increase in unemployment. Maori and Pacific people were particularly affected by unemployment, which created a dependency on State welfare. New Zealand aimed to reduce the number of working-age persons receiving benefits by 30 per cent by 2017. In 2011 a Youth Employment Package had been established to promote on-the-job training and to subsidize employers who employed young persons in permanent positions.
The over-representation of Maori and Pacific persons in the criminal justice system, both as prison population and as victims of crime, was a serious matter of concern. Specific programmes were in place to address those complex issues in collaboration with the wider community, with a particular focus on reducing offending and re-offending among Maori and Pacific people.
Funding for alcohol and drug treatment services had been increased in order to cut down on the proportion of crime attributable to drug and alcohol abuse. The Adult Alcohol and Drug Treatment Court gave offenders the opportunity to confront drug and alcohol dependency.
New Zealand’s police had adopted policies to recruit from ethnic groups and minorities. Prisons were improving the way in which they responded to ethnic diversity and prisoners were strongly encouraged to engage in formal training and employment activities.
Asians were more likely than other ethnic groups to face discrimination and harassment in their employment setting. The Office of Ethnic Affairs sought to address discrimination in employment settings by offering strategic advice on how to manage diversity in the workplace through intercultural awareness and communication training.
The Supreme Court was currently considering a case put forward by the New Zealand Maori Council, challenging the Crown’s plan for the partial sale of shares in the Mighty River Power Company. The Crown was committed to honouring its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and would continue to do so through the mixed ownership model.
Questions by Experts
CARLOS VÁZQUEZ, Country Rapporteur for New Zealand, said that New Zealand counted with a developed framework for dealing with human rights issues and had implemented most of the recommendations the Committee had made during the last review. Mr. Vázquez noted that the Convention was not automatically transposed into domestic legislation but had to be incorporated in national law by statute, and requested additional information on the ongoing constitutional reform.
The status of the Treaty of Waitangi in domestic law was another issue of concern, especially since the statutes relating to the Convention were not binding. The 2014 aspirational deadline for receiving complaints relating to the Waitangi Tribunal might not allow enough time for the filing of all complaints. Had New Zealand considered adopting the practice of a formal written statement whenever the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal were not adopted? The violation of Maori water-related rights and of their right to consultation was a serious issue and further details were requested.
Regarding structural discrimination, many positive steps had been taken by New Zealand to address the issue, but the Committee was concerned that the problem remained. An examination of practices in the areas of justice, health and education pointed to a broader problem of structural discrimination against Maori and Pacific people. Recognizing that there was a problem was the first step for dealing with it, what else could be done to expedite the process?
The Maori language was in a vulnerable state and required urgent protection. What plans did New Zealand have to further protect the Maori language? The degree of financial support given by New Zealand to community languages was a matter of concern and more information was needed on this regard.
New Zealand had agreed that the problem of the use of hate language required attention but had given priority to other issues. The statements recently made by a Member of Parliament which had been highly derogatory of Muslims were shocking and offensive. How did New Zealand propose to tackle similar problems?
The non-recognition by employers of foreign qualifications and of non-New Zealand work experience constituted discrimination. How was New Zealand dealing with these issues? Also, what was the rationale behind the re-organization of the Race Relations Commissioner’s Office?
The Committee had learnt that the confidence of the Maori in New Zealand’s police had been shaken because of “Operation 8”, undertaken a few years ago. What was the current situation in this regard? Could the delegation provide more information on the “Three Strikes Law” and the effect it might have had on society?
An Expert requested more information concerning reports about the granting of land to Maori communities by the State and on the issue of land claims by the Maori in general. Regarding existing legislation on marine resources and the management of the seabed, the Expert noted that there had been positive developments, with a new law in place, and he requested additional information. He also noted that New Zealand had taken a highly positive view of migrants in recent years and wanted to know whether there were any particular employment issues relating to that development.
Another Expert said that New Zealand had made significant progress in formally recognizing the rights of Maori people. Was there any intention to review and amend domestic laws so as to facilitate the transposition into domestic legislation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
An Expert commended New Zealand on the large number of foreign students and on the steps that taken to improve the living standards of minorities such as the Maori. He requested further details regarding complaints of racial discrimination received by the Commission of Human Rights. What were the differences between the system of protection New Zealand offered to the Maori and the provisions made in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
Another Expert asked whether the economic downturn in New Zealand had had a negative impact on specific communities. Was there specific data on this issue? What measures was New Zealand taking to offer additional assistance to vulnerable groups who might have suffered more during the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011? How did New Zealand go about supporting non-governmental organizations and what specific programmes did it have in place? What was New Zealand doing to tackle the problem of recognition of foreign qualifications? The Expert also requested further details on incidents of discrimination experienced by women from minority groups and asked what New Zealand was doing to deal with such problems.
An Expert welcomed the measures which had been taken to ensure respect of the specificities of ethnic groups such as the Maori whenever they came into contact with the police authorities, and requested a detailed account of these, other related measures and their outcomes.
After thanking the delegation for its open and frank report and presentation, a Committee Expert said that the set of initiatives and policies which New Zealand had taken were impressive. He pointed out, however, that policy monitoring and evaluation were equally important and said that he would have welcomed more information on the methodology and findings of the Annual Survey on Perceived Discrimination, which could complement ethnic statistics.
An Expert congratulated New Zealand on what it had achieved since its last review and on the signing of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and said that she hoped that New Zealand would withdraw its reservations to the Declaration. Was there disaggregated data on how Maori and other minority women fared in education and employment; and what was being done to address the challenges faced by women from minority groups? Could New Zealand provide assurances that the Maori would be involved in negotiations of the free trade agreement which the country was conducting with other States?
Another Expert noted the disparities among European, Asian and minority communities in terms of schooling and said that reducing disparities in education remained a significant challenge. The situation in education was closely linked to the situation in the area of employment. Given that there was a tendency to focus on urban areas as far as job creation was concerned, had New Zealand considered the possibility of creating more jobs for Maori in areas where it was easier for Maori to continue to pursue a traditional lifestyle? Disparities in life expectancy were also well-documented. What additional preventive measures could be taken by New Zealand to further reduce the gap between the life expectancy of Europeans and the Maori? The Expert asked for further details on measures taken to deal with the significant over-representation of Maori in New Zealand’s prison population. Exactly what were the fishing quotas for the Maori people?
Response by Delegation
The delegation said that there were several groups that spoke for the Maori in New Zealand, because Maori belonged to many different tribes. New Zealand was looking closely at cases of Maori coming into the criminal justice system as victims of crime. Maori was an official language of New Zealand and Maori terms were used extensively both in everyday life and in the report which had been submitted to the Committee. Social harmony was what New Zealand was striving for, looking to build on its long history of democracy. The statements about Muslim persons made by a Member of Parliament, referred to in the Committee, had infuriated the other Members of Parliament and New Zealand society in general.
The delegation said that incidents of racially-motivated crime were taken very seriously by New Zealand. Structural discrimination affected more severely the Maori and Pacific peoples. The Commission was actively addressing issues of racial inequality, structural discrimination and indigenous rights. Disparities in the enjoyment of human rights remained a complex issue that needed to be addressed with the collaboration of the civil society.
The Christchurch earthquakes have had devastating effects for all ethnic groups, including the Maori and Pacific peoples. A Maori support organization had been established, which connected Maori with government facilities and agencies. Social media had been a vital tool for communicating domestically and abroad.
There were several proactive organizations working to improve the situation of Maori groups across the country. For example, the “By Maori For Maori” Organization provided training, career advancement advice and scholarships to Maori persons. The aim was to build a Maori workforce by blending health and employment expertise, which would help to reduce crime rates and improve the overall situation of Maori.
New Zealand was a successful multi-ethnic country, thanks to the transparency and lack of corruption in the police and the judiciary. Police and justice were working on a pilot project to collect data on victims of crimes, including information about ethnicity and age, in order to draw more precise conclusions. Crime statistics showed that the crime rate in New Zealand was currently the lowest recorded in several decades.
Poor education and socio-economic disadvantage rather than ethnicity were at the source of the disadvantaged place of the Maori in society. New Zealand was working with local Maori tribes to improve youth-related responses and to help young Maori out of the cycle of crime. Education officers would be placed in youth courts attended by young Maori who had committed offenses to help them get back on a positive pathway. Regarding adult offenders, the focus was on reducing reincidence through the motivation and rehabilitation of prisoners. Assistance was also provided to prisoners who were close to release in order to facilitate their reintegration in society.
Concerning the role of the police, the police-community relation in New Zealand was unique, and the police worked with many ethnic groups to make New Zealand a safe place. Police officers did not carry firearms but they had been recently allowed to use tasers. Tasers were used very rarely by appropriately trained officers and only for protection, not for enforcement. The delegation stressed that here was no connection between the use of tasers and the ethnicity of the person on whom they were used. All New Zealand police tasers were fitted with a digital video recording device which provided information on their use.
The “three strikes system” only dealt with serious violent and sexual offenders who had already been convicted of two specified offences, and for which they had received a warning and a final warning. No work had been done on the impact of that law on racial minorities. New Zealand predicted that this system would significantly reduce the number of prisoners in the next decade.
Settlement agreements were binding by law and were made up of five parts: a historical account of the breach, an acknowledgement of the breach and its consequences, an apology, and a cultural, commercial or financial redress. There were specific guidelines in place which governed the procedure followed in the case of settlement agreement to ensure, among other things, fairness and transparency of information and that Maori entitlements and legal rights were not affected. New Zealand had engaged with 80 different groups to settle their claims.
Regarding the 2011 Marine and Coastal Area Act, the delegation said that the Act was the product of extensive consultations and was the Government’s response to criticism voiced against discriminatory effects on Maori resulting from the Foreshore and Seabed Act of 2004.
Concerning the role of the Human Rights Commission, the delegation said that the Human Rights Amendment Bill had changed the structure and functions of the Commission, including removing the statutory positions of the Race Relations Commissioner and Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner. Nevertheless, the Bill retained the focus on race relations and equal employment opportunities by requiring full-time Commissioners to be made responsible for those areas, so it did not diminish the functions of the Commission.
The Law Commission had proposed changes in key areas, including legislation responding to harmful digital behaviour and digital communications, and combating bullying in all its forms, including cyber-bullying.
In the last five years, 60 per cent of race-related complaints to the Human Rights Commission were from men and 40 per cent from women. Among them, 8 per cent of these complaints were from Pacific people, 16 per cent were from Maori, 23 per cent were from Asian, and 29 per cent were from New Zealand Europeans or Pakeha. In cases where mediation was not successful, the Commission advised complainants of their right to proceed to the Human Rights Review Tribunal. The Commission was not aware of any significant judicial cases involving racial discrimination.
Concerning the Treaty of Waitangi in modern society, the delegation said that Maori were entitled to the same rights as all other New Zealand citizens and that Maori had particular rights and interests to self-determination with regard to their properties. The Waitangi Tribunal was responsible for interpreting the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi and had developed a set of principles about how the Treaty should work in modern society. Recent claims included the relationship of Maori tertiary institutions to the Ministry of Education and the provision of health services to Maori people.
There were different expressions of the Treaty of Waitangi principles in New Zealand law, ranging from high-level statutory weighting to lower levels of statutory weighting. The decision about which statutory weighting was applied was taken on a case-by-case basis and reflected the level of Maori interests in the matter at hand.
The Maori language was recognized as an official language and New Zealand had a long-standing commitment to take steps to protect it. However, recognizing the fragile status of the Maori language, the Government was putting together a new language strategy for 2013 to help the revitalization of the Maori language.
The Wai 262 claim dealt with Maori intellectual property rights. New Zealand did not have a domestic policy covering the interface between intellectual property and traditional knowledge and cultural expressions but there were certain initiatives in the Trade Marks Act and in the proposed Patents Bill which covered these issues.
Regarding the Mixed Ownership Model Act and Maori water-rights claims under the Treaty of Waitangi, the delegation said that the proposed sale of 49 per cent of shares in power-generating State-owned enterprises had been challenged in claims before the Waitangi Tribunal and the courts. The sale had been deferred pending resolution of these claims, which contended that the partial share sales obstructed the Government in recognizing the claimants’ treaty interests. New Zealand believed that the sale concerned shareholdings in publicly owned companies that provided hydroelectric and other energy and therefore it did not affect ownership or regulation of related natural resources. The Government had consulted with Maori on the proposed legislative changes and the Maori raised concerns about their rights over water.
Concerning questions about Maori commercial fisheries and commercial aquaculture, the delegation said that under the Maori Fisheries Act 2004, the Maori had been allocated more than 80 per cent of Fisheries settlement assets worth more than 500 million dollars, made up of deep-water fish quota, inshore fish quota, and shares in Aotearoa Fisheries.
On the matter of the administration of Maori land, the delegation clarified that there were two types of Maori land. First, land which had been retained in Maori ownership since the Waitangi Treaty and was organized in several thousand blocs owned by multiple owners and managed by committees of owners. That land was administered by the Maori Land Act 1993. The second class of Maori land included land which had been returned to Maori as part of cultural or commercial redress under Treaty Settlements, and was managed by Maori tribal authorities.
In response to questions about migrants in New Zealand, the delegation said that migrant workers were chosen primarily on the basis of skills. According to national surveys, the majority of the population believed that Asians were most discriminated against and many Asians said that they had experienced discrimination. Overall, however, New Zealand society recognized the contribution that migrants made. It was reported that over 70 per cent of all migrants were participating in the labour force and the majority of those migrating to New Zealand did not have problems finding employment. A number of public and private initiatives were in place to help migrants find employment and to give them access to English language classes. Training on how to manage diversity and inter-cultural communication in the workplace was also provided. Recognition of skills and qualifications was particularly important in the healthcare sector where the risks were higher. A number of steps had been taken to help migrants to obtain recognized qualifications. Programmes were in place to support ethnic minority women, who were under-represented in high-level positions. New Zealand had a zero tolerance policy with regards to violence in the family, and community networks supporting women who had experienced violence had been developed.
Planning was underway to ensure that the mass arrival of asylum seekers could be managed effectively and, to that end, the Immigration Amendment Bill was currently before Parliament and was expected to be passed in 2013.
Regarding the discriminatory statements about Muslims recently made by a Member of Parliament, the delegation said that a motion about respect for religious diversity had been passed in Parliament without debate, and a number of articles expressing opposition to those statements had since appeared in the media.
New Zealand’s Law Commission was looking for ways to deal with the problem of hate speech and was currently in the process of proposing law amendments in order to tackle the relatively new phenomenon of cyber-bullying. It was generally felt that mediation, wherever possible, was far more effective in changing human behaviour than prosecution.
New Zealand recognized the expertise of many non-governmental organizations by contracting their services to provide social support to communities. Non-governmental organizations also had access to State grant funding.
The Office of Ethnic Affairs sought to increase responsiveness to linguistically diverse communities by providing Language Line, a telephone interpreting service that offered clients of participating agencies free services in 44 languages. More than 90 public agencies used Language Line to assist in their interactions with clients.
Inciting racial disharmony was an offence under Section 131 of the Human Rights Act and persons affected by racial disharmony could claim compensation and other civil remedies under Section 61 of the Human Rights Act. There had only been one instance of prosecution under Section 131 in 2008.
Questions by Experts
An Expert asked about perceptions about the state of ethnic relations in New Zealand’s society and drew attention to reported Pakeha claims that reverse racism existed in favour of, rather than against, Maori. The Expert asked whether efforts were made to address public perceptions of racism and to explain related issues to the wider public.
A Committee Expert asked whether New Zealand had some kind of customary justice system and said that a distinction should be made between the State’s justice system and the development of a truly customary or tribal justice. Were there traditional forms of justice and did the State accept that traditional justice prevailed in certain sectors such as civilian life?
A further question was asked about the role of sport in combating racial discrimination in New Zealand. Also, was the Maori language taught in early childhood education?
Response by Delegation
The delegation said that sport in New Zealand functioned as a major unifying element for its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society and that the country saw itself as a leader in sport internationally.
Anybody could be subject to discrimination and in certain cases even New Zealand Europeans and Pakeha had made complaints about racial discrimination. It was difficult for persons who had always been part of the majority to understand what it was like being part of a minority. It was important for citizens not to feel threatened by racial equality policies and this could be achieved through education.
Customary processes were taken into account and there had been several initiatives to allow for greater flexibility so that fora which were more culturally aligned with Maori and Pacific peoples would help improve the justice system.
Early childhood education in Maori was provided through “language nests” as part of the early childhood immersion education system. However, early childhood education in Maori was optional and the decision remained with the parents. Teacher supply was an ongoing issue because, as time went by, the pool of Maori language teachers decreased. The problem was being addressed through a series of relevant programmes and policies.
CARLOS VÁZQUEZ, Country Rapporteur for New Zealand, said that the human rights situation in New Zealand was very positive overall. Challenges remained were being addressed and there were many examples of best practices which would be recommended to other countries. The Committee hoped that the concerns that had expressed during the interactive dialogue would be taken into account and that recommendations would be fully implemented. Close attention should be paid to the continued importance of consultations with the Maori community on matters affecting them.
JUDITH COLLINS, Minister of Justice and Minister for Ethnic Affairs, thanked the Committee Experts for their insightful questions and said that the level of engagement of New Zealand’s non-governmental organizations with the work of the National Human Rights Commission was very helpful. New Zealand pursued an evolutionary and sometimes revolutionary approach in its fight against racial discrimination, and the issues that had been raised in relation to the situation the Maori community were taken very seriously.