Kia ora koutou!
Welcome to the latest Human Rights Commission newsletter Tūrangawaewae – a summary of recent developments on the New Zealand human rights landscape, and the work the Commission is doing for a better, fairer New Zealand.
In this issue, we look at the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, why human rights should be made explicit in new public sector reforms, the Race Relations Commissioner calls for New Zealanders to resist racism in response to fear of COVID-19 and more.
UN special rapporteur calls on NZ for bold human-rights approach to housing crisis
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, completed her 10-day investigation into whether housing is being enjoyed as a human right in New Zealand on 19 February. Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, said that “Ms Farha’s preliminary findings clearly affirm what many of us already know in New Zealand; much more needs to be done to address the housing crisis. Our housing crisis is also a human rights crisis of significant proportions.” Read more here.
Human rights for the public service – but what about the rest of us?
The current Public Service Legislation Bill before select committee contains a glaring double standard concerning how the public sector would deal with human rights. Paul Hunt, Chief Human Rights Commissioner, wrote in The Dominion Post about why human rights should not be an after-thought and should be made explicit in the new public service reforms legislation. "The omission of a requirement for the public service to uphold national and international human rights commitments is extremely serious. It's not too late to stop the double standard, hypocrisy and backsliding – and put matters right," says the Chief Commissioner. Read more here.
Visit of the United Nations expert on the rights of older persons
The UN Independent Expert on the rights of older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, begins her visit to New Zealand this week to assess the human rights situation of older persons. The UN expert said over the course of her visit, from 2 to 12 March, that she is looking forward to learning more about New Zealand’s comprehensive policy framework in relation to older persons and “how it addresses the human rights concerns of an ageing population.” Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, said; “Ms Kornfeld-Matte’s visit is an important opportunity to hold up a mirror so we can better see the human rights predicament of older people in New Zealand. Read more here.
Race Relations Commissioner calls on New Zealanders to resist coronavirus racism and unkindness
We've been disappointed to hear reports of racial abuse, as a result of COVID-19. Anxiety and fear should never be a reason to vilify any group. Meng Foon, Race Relations Commissioner, spoke to The Project to appeal “to my fellow New Zealanders to be kind. Don't let the coronavirus bring out your racism, your anxieties, and your unkindness to our community". Read more here.
Wellington's housing crisis taking 'huge toll' on disabled people
We need to do so much better about making homes and urban design accessible, says Paula Tesoriero, Disability Rights Commissioner. Newshub interviewed Tesoriero about accessibility issues in Wellington; “accessible housing is one of the most pressing issues facing disabled Kiwis." Paula’s comments were in response to issues finding suitable flats in the Wellington raised by Erin Gough. Read more here.
Fears 'digital transformation' of access to public services may leave vulnerable communities behind
According to a new report from the Citizens Advice Bureau NZ, too many people are being left behind as more and more government agencies shift their services online. Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, explained to TVNZ that access to government services is a human right. He said that “the digital-first approach needs to be rolled out with great caution with particular attention to the existing disadvantage of certain communities – the elderly, Pasifika, Māori communities, and disabled people who are already disadvantaged. There’s a danger their disadvantage will be entrenched further without great care.” Read more here.
Parliament Petitioned to Take Australian Human Rights Abuses to UN
Community Law and the Human Rights Commission joined forces to highlight the issues of Australia’s severe immigration detention, deportation and citizenship impediments for New Zealanders last month. “The issue has a strong race discrimination component. The discrimination begins in Australia and impacts on New Zealand. The impact is most keenly felt by the individuals. Not only are they demeaned by discrimination, but many of them also lose everything: children, partners, parents, jobs, businesses, friends and a sense of belonging. They languish in appalling detention centres,” says Paul Hunt, Chief Human Rights Commissioner. Read more here.
Education and Training Bill submission
Last month, we lodged our submission on the Education and Training Bill with the Education and Workforce Committee. The Bill covers a number of important topics coming out of the recent Education Reform including the provision of primary and secondary education, dispute resolution and the use of physical force by school staff in certain situations. It is important our education system is inclusive of all learners, especially those that need support to thrive. Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero will also present an oral submission. Read more here.
Tricia Keelan joins Commission as Pou Ārahi/Deputy Chief Executive
We are very pleased to announce that Tricia Keelan has joined the Commission as Pou Ārahi/Deputy Chief Executive. Tricia's iwi affiliations are Ngāti Porou, Te Aupouri, Ngāti Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine. Over the last 10 years, Tricia has held strategic ownership for Te Tiriti o Waitangi within a number of organisations, including responsibility for Tiriti-based development, policy, relationships, planning, funding and delivery of services to Māori. “Tricia is an incredible wahine toa, “ says Manahautū/Chief Executive Rebecca Elvy “we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her. Read more here.
How employers can benefit from transparency: EEO Commissioner
Several employers and experts attended a first of its kind workshop hosted by the Human Rights Commission about how pay transparency can benefit businesses. The Commission together with the Employers and Manufacturers Association held a session where transparency practises, gender equality, career progression, diversity, and inclusion were also discussed. Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo said greater transparency would ensure workers felt more secure, valued and invested in a business that has mutually invested in them. Read more here.
Disability Rights Commissioner meets with Government chief executives to discuss accessibility and universal design
The need for urgency in improving the accessibility of housing and urban design was top of the agenda when Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero and disability advocate Dr Tristram R. Ingham met with chief executives from across government agencies on 11 February. One of the questions they raised was “why stop at just 15 per cent of new Kāinga Ora homes meeting universal design standards?” They outlined why Government agencies are in a prime position to take an integrated approach to improve the lives of disabled people and future-proofing housing and the urban environment for everyone.