The draft National Action Plan to combat racism in New Zealand, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, is ready for submission.

The historic 100-page document, prepared by the special task force set up by the Race Relations Commission under the mandate of the Human Rights Commission, which addresses all forms of racial discrimination prevalent in Aotearoa, is due to be submitted to the justice ministry by the end of May 2022.

The task force was formed in December 2020 with a total of 12 members. 

The membership, which was a mix of Tangata Whenua (Maori) and Tangata Tiriti (non-Maori), was divided into two caucuses.

The Maori caucus was chaired by Tina Ngataa, a Maori leader, and the non-Maori caucus by Prabha Ravi, founder and director of the Natraj School of Dance in Wellington, who also sits on the board of numerous organisations.              

Meng Foon, Race Relations Commissioner, led the project.

The National Action Plan against Racism is inspired by the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), to which New Zealand is a signatory since 1972.

The draft action plan identifies racism as a fact of life in NZ that denies victims “basic equality and fuels ethnic hatred.”

The document notes that while international human rights law guarantees equality, fairness and the right to non-discriminatory treatment, “nevertheless, political, racial and ethnic discrimination continues to negatively affect people across the world, including here in Aotearoa NZ.”

An online survey, coupled with meetings, seminars, and workshops, conducted by the Human Rights Commission, sought public cooperation to “eliminate racism in Aotearoa NZ.”

Participants were asked, first, what their vision was for an Aotearoa that was free of racism.

Next, what difference would a racism-free Aotearoa make to their lives?

Third, participants were asked for their “best ideas that would enable Aotearoa to be free of racism.”

The survey closed on 23 November 2021.

It covered a range of ethnic organisations and over 1000 individuals over a period of roughly a year.

Typically, survey respondents encountered racism in the areas of employment, education and immigration.

Introducing new legislation to control racism is a key recommendation made in the draft action plan.

In a parallel move, the Ministry of Justice engaged with stakeholders in a separate consultative process, as per an email communication sent out by it.

This means the ministry sought to develop its own plan document in addition to the one it authorised the Human Rights Commission to prepare, sources said.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi signs off the draft action plan submitted by the Human Rights Commission before forwarding it for Cabinet approval.

Until then, the recommendations to eradicate racism in Aotearoa remain non-binding on the government.