As has been widely reported, the Human Rights Commission provided a $200 koha at a pōwhiri ahead of a Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom hui in Kirikiriroa, Hamilton on 1st May.
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt spoke at the event and a koha was laid at the pōwhiri in line with tikanga or Māori custom.
In responding to criticism, Mr Hunt said he accepted the speaking engagement as he has a statutory duty to educate all New Zealanders about their human rights and responsibilities.
“I was doing my job” he said. “The provision of koha is entirely culturally appropriate. To not offer koha at that pōwhiri would have been extremely disrespectful. This is normal practice at all pōwhiri, and the Commission will always try to follow protocols when attending external events. It is also consistent with the Commission’s commitment to becoming a Tiriti o Waitangi based organisation.”
At the hui, which included prayers, informal discussions, formal speeches and food, Mr Hunt explained that human rights are not only about rights, they are also about building respectful relationships and taking seriously our responsibilities to each other. The hui lasted about six hours.
"I attended the hui to speak, listen and discuss the experiences raised by the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom, acknowledging that these experiences are part of a wider conversation about the importance of social inclusion and belonging in Aotearoa," he explained at the time.
Addressing over 150 members and their families, Mr Hunt described his past work advocating for human rights internationally and explained the role of the Human Rights Commission. The hui included a gathering in which the Commissioner engaged in informal discussions with attendees for 2 hours.
Mr Hunt observed that the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch massacres devotes an entire volume to the critical importance of social inclusion – and the Human Rights Commission takes that seriously.
“As Chief Human Rights Commissioner, it’s my job to attend such hui,” he said.