Indigenous | Racism

Iwi Chairs Forum walks out of national anti-racism project after coalition waters it down


The National Iwi Chairs Forum has pulled out of the working group for National Action Plan Against Racism (NAPAR).

That action surprised Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith who said he was disappointed to find the forum had left.

The forum said its involvement was no longer tenable because of the government’s planned changes to NAPAR, which it said were targeted at reducing the focus on colonial racism against Māori and were contradictory to an equitable partnership.

The forum also highlighted numerous actions from the government it said specifically targeted Māori, and which consequently undermined a standard of good faith for effective collaboration.

In 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended Aotearoa New Zealand develop a national plan. In 2019, the government agreed to develop a plan in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Christchurch masjidain on March 15.

Minister Goldsmith said NAPAR was still being drafted and there would be an opportunity for all communities to give feedback prior to it being finalised.

“I provided direction on an early draft of the plan that it should focus on racism against all groups – as racism against anyone is unacceptable.

“This does not negate the voice of Māori and their experiences of racism. Rather, I want to bring into focus the experience of all New Zealanders,” he said.

Acting Race Relations Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo said she was concerned to hear reports that Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith was working to reduce references to Māori experiences of racism in the action plan

“Racism in Aotearoa has deep historical economic, cultural, social, political, and spiritual roots, enabled by individuals and within institutions. The ongoing harms to and losses for Māori must therefore be addressed in a NAPAR if we truly want to eliminate racism.”

“I’m seeking an explanation from the minister because I’m extremely concerned that this could in effect be denial of the experiences of racism that Māori endure constantly in Aotearoa,” Sumeo said.

‘Racism at a systemic level’

In 2021 a study, Whakatika: A survey of Māori experiences of racism, found 93 percent of Māori in Aotearoa experienced racism daily, and recently the Children and Young People’s Commission published a report that captured 161 young people’s experiences with racism.

The commission’s tino rangatiratanga shared leader Julia Whaipooti said Māori were among those more likely to experience racism in New Zealand.

“Such experiences are not just one off-isolated events but often at a systemic level due to the historic and ongoing suppression of Māori by the process of colonisation.

“This continues today with many tangata whenua saying they can feel unsafe in almost every environment.”

Whaipooti said it was vital that the government demonstrated it was listening, and focused on addressing racism against Māori, as well as the many other ethnic groups across Aotearoa.

The UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Francisco Calí Tzay, is visiting Aotearoa this week before the UN Human Rights Council examines New Zealand’s human rights record at the end of April.

The Special Rapporteur is meeting with Māori organisations, iwi and hapū leaders, Indigenous legal experts, and Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission.

What is NAPAR?

NAPAR was being developed by the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the government. Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission was asked to undertake preliminary engagement with tangata whenua and civil society to record their experiences of racism and their thoughts about what should be in the National Action Plan.

The report, Ki Te Whaiao, Ki Te Ao Mārama, sets out what the commission heard and makes recommendations to the Ministry. A further report, Maranga Mai, sets out the impact of colonisation, racism and white supremacy on tangata whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Subsequently, a working group was convened in 2022 to develop a draft action plan for public consultation, co-led by the Ministry of Justice and the National Iwi Chairs Forum, and consisting of a tangata whenua caucus, a tauiwi caucus and a state sector caucus.

The National Iwi Chairs Forum have been asked for comment.