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Race Relations report: Religious bias complaints rising in NZ

Mar 15th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

HEAR OUR VOICES: NewsWire's Rodney Brown (left) and Jesse Fabricius with the new Race Relations Day poster.

RELIGIOUS discrimination – especially against Muslims – is on the rise in New Zealand, says the Race Relations Commissioner.

Complaints are up 25 per cent over three years, although the numbers are still small – 71 complaints in 2010 compared with 57 in 2008.

Eighteen of the complainants were Muslim, compared with nine Christians and five atheists, reports Joris de Bres (right) in his latest annual report released today.

“As in previous years, a prominent theme of complaint by or about Muslims related to appearance issues,” he says in the 2010 report released today.

He got six complaints about Muslim dress or facial hair.

Most of the prison-related complaints (eight) concerned Muslim inmates, citing religious issues about double-bunking and strip searching.

Increased religious discrimination is one of a number of the report’s findings:

Key negative trends were:

  • Maori children still make up the majority of child abuse cases.
  • A disproportionate number of Maori are in prison.
  • Maori and Pacific Island unemployment rates have nearly doubled since 2007.
  • Asians are the most discriminated against.

Positive trends were:

  • Nine out of 10 migrants are happy with their life in New Zealand.
  • Life expectancy for Maori has improved., Over a seven-year period to 2007, figures show males now live 1.4 years longer and women two years more.
  • Complaints of racial harassment have halved since 2006.
  • None of 15 complaints against the news media for discrimination was upheld.
  • Mainstream media have shown signs of an improvement in covering race relations.
  • More than 80% of people who want two flags agree with the tino rangatiratanga flag.

Child abuse

Almost half of 25,856 investigations into child abuse involved Maori, with 11,003 of those substantiated in 2009-10.

Maori made up 57% of children in protective care, 61% of those held by Youth Justice and 52% of those in foster homes.


Half of those in prison are Maori, even though they make up only 15% of the population. Of 8640 prisoners, 4350 are Maori and 977 are Pacific Islanders.

Four Rangatahi Youth Courts were launched last year, which allow for some proceedings to be held on marae.

Discrimination and harassment

Multiple cases of racial discrimination have been reported in Christchurch, says the report.

People feel that certain demographic groups are discriminated against “a great deal”, according to a Human Rights Commission survey, which asked New Zealanders which demographics they felt were most discriminated against.

The survey found Asians are most discriminated against in New Zealand, with 77% of people with Asian ancestry saying they suffered some form of prejudice, up from 74% in 2008.

People on welfare or benefits were rated the second most-discriminated group, while Pacific Islanders came in sixth and Maori seventh.


Media reports are the only way racially-motivated crime is recorded, as the Government has not yet put in place a system to collect data on racially-motivated crime.

Mr de Bres says an “unrelenting focus” on eliminating racial inequality is needed to reduce the impact on future generations.

Diversity action

Action the Government has taken to encourage cultural diversity in New Zealand includes:

  • Race Relations Day,
  • Diversity Action Programme,
  • the Diversity Awards, rewarding people for “outstanding contributions to cultural diversity and race relations”.


Te Tiriti o Waitangi Treaty of Waitangi

In 2010, the preferred national Māori flag, tino rangatiratanga, flew alongside the New Zealand flag from the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day for the first time in 150 years.

The official recognition of the Māori flag on this day was seen by some as a symbol of partnership in the spirit of the Treaty.

The Waitangi Tribunal has registered its 2310th claim, and is working towards the Government’s goal of settling all historic treaty claims by 2014.

The 2010 budget allocated an extra $6.5 million to speed up the Treaty settlements process, and progress has been increasing.



The Ministry of Education has produced a series of sign language tools for teachers and students, to increase language usage and awareness in schools.

These include Thumbs Up, an online learning tool for intermediate school students to learn about the deaf community by videos, worksheets and diagrammes.

Toru Fetu, a tri-lingual kindergarten, opened in Porirua in June to create awareness of Pacific languages and cultures.

News media

Mainstream news media is changing its approach to diversity and expanding to integrate racial diversity in reporting and broadcasting, says Mr de Bres.

For example, TV3 is launching a service for the Chinese community in New Zealand that will translate a daily selection of news stories into Mandarin and re-post them on the channel’s website.

The Pacific Islands Media Association called for a Pasifika TV channel, using the success of Maori Television as an example of what they could achieve with their own network.

Issues surrounding race relations in the mainstream news media were prominent in 2010, with the most notable case the resignation of TVNZ Breakfast host Paul Henry.

Mr Henry’s derogatory comments about Governor-General Anand Satyanand sparked complaints and an inquiry by Mr de Bres about reporting racial diversity in the media.

Last year, 15 race-related complaints were made to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, the New Zealand Press Council and The Advertising Standards Authority. None was upheld.

His 2010 report also covers media achievements in accurately covering racial issues.

The 2010 Excellence in Reporting Diversity Award – organised by Whitireia Journalism – was won by Rebecca Todd of The Press for her feature series on a Bhutanese refugee family’s journey from the Himalayas to Christchurch.

Runnersup were Joanna Davis, The Aucklander (seen here getting her award from Mr de Bres) and FairfaxNZ’s John Hartevelt.

Vaimoana Tapeleao, a Samoan reporter for the New Zealand Herald, received the award for Junior Reporter of the Year at the Qantas Media Awards.

Migration and settlement

The number of people approved for temporary work visas was down five percent in 2009-10, partly due to a drop in demand for temporary migrant workers.

Despite the downturn, net migration – the difference between the number of long-term arrivals and departures – has increased and international student numbers remained high.

The Immigration Act, which came into force on November 29 last year, introduced a new interim visa and the right to education.

A new short-term visa has been established for temporary migrants already onshore who are waiting for a decision on a temporary visa.

The right to education means that schools will not be prosecuted for enrolling a child who is unlawfully in New Zealand.

Diversity research

Getting involved is the best way to counter-act discrimination, the report says.

“Community participation” is an emerging theme from recent research carried out by various universities, and Government and non-profit agencies.

Being heavily involved with community can have the effect of buffering youth from the effects of discrimination, arming them with a strong sense of cultural identity.

Migrants, particularly those coming from Asian countries, are satisfied in this country, despite encountering more challenges than permanent citizens.

The police are investigating barriers to recruiting more minority officers, aiming to increase the diversity of New Zealand’s police force.

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    I wish to report the defammation of the name of Jesus Christ with the use of the ‘f’ word in the middle on the tv show ‘Inside NZ – High Time” shown on channel 3 July 13th, 2011 at 8.30 pm.

    This can be viewed on ‘On Demand.’

    As a Christian I was horrified by this blasphemy and ask for information as to how I can bring this matter to the attention of NZ Christians (in particular) and to find redress from channel 3 and an assurance that this will never again be tolerated by them. I intend going to the Broadcasting Standards Commission as well.

    Many thanks for your help


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