Race Relations Commissioner appointed

Retiring Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon has been appointed the next Race Relations Commissioner, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today. 

Mr Foon will take up his new appointment on 26 August 2019 and will be responsible for leading the work of the Human Rights Commission in promoting positive race relations.

“I would like to congratulate Meng on his appointment,” said Andrew Little.

“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.

“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.

“This is an exciting appointment to a role that presents enormous challenges but tremendous possibilities,” Andrew Little said.

The Human Rights Commission is an independent Crown entity that works with Government and civil society to promote respect for human rights, encourage harmonious race relations and equal employment opportunities, and to resolve complaints about discrimination and related issues.

The process and panels used to appoint Commissioners is independent and complies with the Paris Principles. The leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament were consulted on the appointment process.

“It is regrettable that the appointment of the Race Relations Commissioner has been delayed as long as it has been,” said Andrew Little.

“At the end of last year, an unsuccessful applicant in an earlier round sought an injunction to stop the appointment process. When that did not succeed the same person sought judicial review of the process earlier this year. The decision on that was finalised in May[1]. The Governor General accepted the recommendation to appoint Mr Foon this week.

“It has been a long wait but I am confident this is an excellent appointment,” Andrew Little said.

Biography:

Meng Foon was first elected onto the Gisborne District Council in 1995 and became mayor in 2001. He is one of a handful of people of Chinese descent to have become a mayor in New Zealand. He is fluent in English, Cantonese and Te Reo Māori.  As of 2019, he is still the only mayor in New Zealand who is fluent in Te Reo. He is a member of a number of community organisations including the Ngā Taonga a nā Tama Toa Trust, the New Zealand Chinese Association, Aotearoa Social Enterprise Trust and MY Gold Investments Ltd. He has released a musical number, Tu Mai, which includes various native tracks, he has been chair of Gisborne/Tarawhiti Rugby League since 2007, and is a member of the New Zealand Rugby League Board.

[1] Henry v the Minister of Justice [2019] NZHC 1234 [31 May 2019]