Our story

The Human Rights Commission was created to provide better protection of human rights in Aotearoa. The Commission was formed in 1977 and works under the Human Rights Act 1993.

We are funded through the Ministry of Justice but operate independently of the New Zealand Government as an independent Crown Entity.


Highlights and milestones


The Human Rights Commission is established by the Human Rights Commission Act 1977. The Commission is given a range of functions and powers to protect rights under United Nations covenants and conventions.


The introduction of the Human Rights Act 1993 extends the protections of New Zealanders by including new grounds of discrimination. These include disability, political opinion, employment status, family status and sexual orientation.


The Human Rights Amendment Act 2001 makes significant changes to the Act. It merges the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator with the Human Rights Commission and sets out the functions of the new Race Relations Commissioner.

Provision is also made for the appointment of an Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner and the Office of Human Rights Proceedings. The Commission’s focus changes from anti-discrimination to broader human rights.


Every four years, countries that belong to the United Nations are asked to declare what they are doing to improve human rights. This process is called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Commission publishes its first report on the state of human rights in New Zealand, Human Rights in New Zealand Today – Nga Tika Tangata O Te Motu. (LINK)

The report is the basis for the first national action plan for human rights, released in March 2005 -New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights 2005-2010 – Mana ki te Tangata (LINK)


We launched our latest report card on the state of human rights in New Zealand on 10 December, 2010, on International Human Rights Day. Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 – Nga Tika Tangata O Aotearoa 2010 analyses the full spectrum of human rights. It identifies where New Zealand does well, and where it could do better to meet the challenges of poverty, entrenched inequality and discrimination.


The Commission began a comprehensive organisational review in late 2011, focused on improving efficiency. Two key projects informed that review – the Audience Project and the Internal Capacity Assessment.


It was New Zealand’s second opportunity to participate in the UPR process and have its human rights record assessed. The New Zealand Government accepted 121 recommendations and rejected 34 in May 2014 and committed to work with the Human Rights Commission, non-government organisations and civil society to develop a National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NPA) to respond to and address these recommendations. The NPA will be finalised in June 2015.

Our korowai and logo

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata is the korowai or cloak of the Human Rights Commission. It is a taonga (treasure) gifted to the Commission by the late Merimeri Penfold, who served as Human Rights Commissioner from 2002-2007.

Te kāhui embraces those who gather together under the kaupapa of human rights and symbolises both their protective role and the Commission’s role in promoting them. Tika tangata refers to our human rights and responsibilities, suggesting the highest imperatives of respect and conduct.

The design of our logo derives from the traditional art of Taniko, the weaving used to make korowai. The logo symbolises the many muka or strands that are woven together, representing both the uniqueness of individuals and our collective identity – our diversity and our unity.

The muka emphasise our interconnectedness and interdependence. The pona (knot) secures the threads. Together they make up the korowai of our human rights and responsibilities.