History of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme

In July and August 2004 two Jewish cemeteries in Wellington were desecrated, prompting public outrage and a chain of events that led to the development of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme.

Parliament unanimously passed a resolution deploring the acts, recalling the terrible history of anti-Semitism culminating in the holocaust, and expressing unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism and all forms of racial and ethnic hatred, persecution and discrimination.

A statement signed by Maori, Pakeha, Pacific, Asian and other ethnic community leaders, religious leaders, mayors and councillors, business and trade union leaders and community groups was tabled in the House supporting the resolution.

Writers James and Helen McNeish issued a call to all New Zealanders, and the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, approved a public meeting on Parliament’s forecourt on 24 August. It was addressed by former Governor-General, Sir Paul Reeves; former Ethnic Affairs Minister, Hon Chris Carter; Dr Ngatata Love of the Wellington Tenths Trust; former Dunedin Mayor, Sukhi Turner; Rabbi Lawrence of Auckland; Wellington College principal Roger Moses; James McNeish and a group of Wellington young people.

The first forum

The Speaker also invited community representatives to a forum on the way forward for racial harmony in the Beehive, Parliament’s Executive Wing, following the public meeting. Chaired by former Waitakere Mayor, Bob Harvey, and former Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, and addressed by Professor Paul Morris of Victoria University, the forum of 250 people heard the ideas that had been put forward by participants before the meeting, raised further suggestions, and unanimously adopted the outline of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme.

A further forum was held on the anniversary of the first, in August 2005. The most recent forum was held in Christchurch on 24 and 25 August 2014 on the theme of Migrant and Refugee Employment: Valuing Diversity.