The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is supposedly an independent Crown entity, but this is no longer the case. It appears to be greatly influenced by the National Iwi Chairs’ Forum, a group seeking a profound change to the existing political order.
Under the Forum’s influence, the Commission has set a course to become a dual-governed entity. According to Tricia Keelan, deputy chief executive of the HRC who also has the role of ‘Pou Ārahi’ (a representative on the Executive for the Māori perspective of the organisation) - “we aim to provide a living demonstration of Matike Mai Aotearoa within the next five years, if not earlier.”
To uncover just how much influence the Forum has on the Commission, an IOA application revealed that our request would be very difficult to fulfil due to the sheer volume of material. Consequently, we agreed to confining the enquiry to a summary of the engagement with the NICF for the two years from July 2020 – July 2022. This summary can be seen HERE.
In a move to further 'the partnership with Maori' ideology, the He Puapua chair Professor Claire Charters has recently been appointed to the Commission as the ‘Indigenous rights governance partner’, even though the Commission has theoretically been told to stop work on He Puapua. (He Puapua is the controversial report commissioned in 2019 by the New Zealand Government to inquire into and report on measures to achieve the goals set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples).
In this newly created role, Professor Charters will provide Maori leadership with a view to enhancing the Commission’s governance.
“I’m looking forward to putting into practice a lot of my hopes and ambitions for constitutional transformation” she said.
On the announcement of this appointment, the Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, said: “We are grateful to the National Iwi Chairs Forum, and Claire Charters, for this joint initiative”, adding “The Human Rights Act requires the Commission to deepen understanding of the relationship between human rights and te Tiriti, and our joint initiative with the Forum will help us deliver what Parliament has asked us to do.”
Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon goes on to explain:
“Claire has extensive experience working on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and that will be a huge asset as we support the implementation of the declaration here in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
- Matike Mai Aotearoa is a report on constitutional transformation for New Zealand, initiated by the Iwi Chairs' Forum.
- Besides being chair of the committee that produced He Puapua, Claire Charters was lead organiser of the Constitutional Kōrero: Transforming New Zealand’s Constitution at University of Auckland last year. This was held “to present arguments and options for constitutional transformation to realise Māori rights in te Tiriti o Waitangi, He Whakaputanga and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.
University of Auckland: Law professor Claire Charters joins Human Rights Commission
Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (ipanz):
- Iwi endorse Human Rights Commission Tiriti-Based Approach
- Becoming Te Tiriti-led is an obligation, not a choice