11 Jul 2019

Meng Foon appointed Race Relations Commissioner

8:12 am on 11 July 2019

Retiring Gisborne mayor Meng Foon will be the next Race Relations Commissioner.

Gisborne District mayor Meng Foon

Gisborne District mayor Meng Foon Photo: New Zealand Government

The role has been vacant since the former Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy stood down a year ago.

Mr Foon will be responsible for leading the work of Crown entity Human Rights Commission in promoting positive race relations.

The Human Rights Commission also works to encourage equal employment opportunities and resolve complaints about discrimination and related issues.

Mr Foon told Morning Report there was a need to address poverty, lift the rate of average salaries, better housing for the homeless because "rents are horrendous" at the present, Treaty of Waitangi issues needed to be addressed, and focussing on building economics of the iwi.

He said race relations was just a part of the job.

"I want to showcase New Zealand as a great country to live and in order to do that, it will be great for all of us to tell all of our stories so we can understand more of each other's ethnicities, our cultures, the way that we do things ... and continue to enhance harmonious relations."

Justice Minister Andrew Little said Mr Foon had an exceptional record in relationship building.

"He has an outstanding record as a relationship builder and walks comfortably in the pākehā world, the Māori world, the Chinese community and other communities making up New Zealand," he said.

"Race relations is a priority area for the Human Rights Commission. We need to continue to break down barriers to racial and ethnic equality in New Zealand society."

Mr Little said he regretted it took this long to appoint a Commissioner, after delays caused by an unsuccessful applicant who sought first an injunction and then a judicial review over the process.

"It has been a long wait but I am confident this is an excellent appointment," Mr Little said.

Mr Foon will be stepping down at the end of this year after 18 years as mayor.

Mr Foon was elected as a councillor in 1995 before successfully running for mayor in 2001. He is currently the only mayor fluent in te reo Māori.

He takes up the role as Race Relations Commissioner on 26 August.

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