top of page

Human Rights Commissioner says Pacific Peoples wellbeing threatened

Merewai Durutalo

Indigenous women series: Acting Human Rights Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo has addressed the UN about her concerns for indigenous people in New Zealand.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

This article is part of series we are publishing this week focusing on indigenous women in New Zealand and the Pacific.

The Acting Human Rights Chief Commissioner has told a United Nations body that the Government's repealing of the Fair Pay Agreements Act disproportionately affects Pacific people.

Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo has addressed UN Member States in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The Commission was concerned about recent law changes that undermine workers’ rights and their dignity, without adequate consultation.”

Overall Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission’s three main concerns are constitutional protections, Indigenous peoples’ rights, and workers’ rights.

Sumeo specifically highlighted the poor constitutional protection of Te Tīriti o Waitangi.

“Despite repeated recommendations for the Crown and Māori to determine the appropriate constitutional protections of Te Tīriti o Waitangi, Māori rights remain vulnerable to the political climate of the day.

“We are concerned that the new Government has agreed to remove, review or repeal numerous policies and laws that provide for Māori.”

Sumeo says the Government has been asked to move forward with discussions and action in partnership with Māori and to establish and apply suitable constitutional processes.

This includes institutions recognising, respecting and giving effect to Te Tīriti, through implementing a national plan of action on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Sumeo said the Commission's main concern is the recent law changes that compromise workers' rights and their dignity, without appropriate consultation.

She says they have also requested the creation of modern slavery legislation, with due diligence obligations and pay transparency legislation.

The last review in 2019 saw the positive intiatives of a national strategy to eliminate family and sexual violence, and decriminalising and making abortion much more accessible.

Sumeo says a review in April will see the government’s progress on issues like eliminating family and sexual violence and making abortions more accessible.

But she says the pressing issues remain.

“The Commission urges the Government to reinstate fair pay legislation and ensure any legislative changes to the legislation undergo usual democratic processes.”

Hero image: Acting Human Rights Chief Commissioner, Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo addressing UN Member States in Geneva. Photo / Supplied

bottom of page