David Rutherford

Chief Human Rights Commissioner

David Rutherford took up the five-year appointment as Chief Human Rights Commissioner on September 1, 2011.

007 David Rutherford 20 11 12LR 200x300 David RutherfordBefore taking up the position, Mr Rutherford was the managing director of Special Olympics Asia Pacific based in Singapore. He has been chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union and has worked as a sport and commercial lawyer at Bell Gully, Gibson Sheat and Goodmans (Toronto).  Mr Rutherford has held senior executive roles at Fletcher Challenge and Wrightson and lectured in sports law at Victoria University.

He is a passionate advocate for sport and promoting the rights of people with disabilities, and has strong community links with young people and education. Mr Rutherford was Chairman of Special Olympics in New Zealand and was on the Special Olympics International Board.

Mr Rutherford approached the Commission as spokesperson for a group of parents following incidents of serious bullying at Hutt Valley High School. In response to the complaint, the Commission, alongside the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, examined the human rights and systemic issues surrounding bullying in schools. The analysis, which found that school pupils who are the victims of violence, abuse and  bullying lack access to the same rights as the bullies was later confirmed by a report from the Office of the Ombudsmen about serious assaults at the school.


  • Chairs the Commission.
  • Acts jointly with the EEO, Race Relations and Disability Commissioners in their areas of designated functions.
  • Has overall responsibility for the Commission’s organisational health and capability and the activities undertaken in the performance of the Commission’s functions, and for the administration of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings.

Thematic portfolios

  • Education
  • Human rights mainstreaming
  • Civil and political rights
  • Business and human rights
  • Treaty of Waitangi

Additional specific population groups

  • Rural people


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