August 25, 2020

Some time ago, I raised a complaint with the NZ Human Rights Commission about District Health Boards in New Zealand that were choosing to prioritise surgery in part based on race.

Sadly (but not surprisingly) it turns out that they’re totally okay with that :(

Our final email exchange:

Kia ora Duncan

Thank you for telling us of your concern about the Stuff article that stated Maori and Pasifika awaiting elective surgery have been placed at the top of waiting lists.

Our apologies for the slow reply.

Kia ora, and thank you for the reply - I imagine the pandemic has proved as disruptive to you as it has to us here in Victoria.

Both the Human Rights Act and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act recognise that to overcome discrimination, positive actions may be needed to enable particular groups to achieve equal outcomes with other groups in our society. These positive actions are called ‘special measures’ or ‘affirmative action’. They are not discriminatory if they assist people in certain groups to achieve equality. Any special measure must be based on information that shows that the present position is unequal.

Our website gives some examples, here is a link: https://www.hrc.co.nz/enquiries-and-complaints/faqs/positive-actions-achieve-equality/”

When I was one of the few pakeha in a kura kaupapa Maori class back in the early 90s, we found ourselves constantly in conflict with the staff on matters of equal treatment. Even the ability to answer roll call in Maori was controversial, and required 11 and 12 year old children to literally stand up in class in the face of denigration by adults three times their age.

Now it seems the HRC has embraced the principles, if not the specific goals, of the people we were struggling against. Back then, we demanded equal treatment and color-blindness from teachers and an administration that discriminated on the basis of race.

These days, it seems the HRC itself is supportive of racial discrimination provided it achieves your aims.

I’m disappointed, but not surprised.