Devoy deserves chance, says poll

By Nick Walsh

Most New Zealanders feel Race Relations Comissioner has been unfairly criticised, survey reveals.

Susan Devoy has been under attack for her lack of experience. Photo / APN
Susan Devoy has been under attack for her lack of experience. Photo / APN

More than half the people who responded to a Herald-DigiPoll survey think criticisms of Dame Susan Devoy's appointment as Race Relations Commissioner were unfair and that she should be given a chance.

The former world squash champion's appointment to the position of Race Relations Commissioner in March sparked controversy.

MPs accused Justice Minister Judith Collins of making a celebrity appointment and questioned Dame Susan's lack of experience.

Maori leaders criticised Dame Susan over an opinion piece she had written about Waitangi Day in the Bay of Plenty Times.

Respondents to the Herald-DigiPoll survey were asked for their view of Dame Susan's appointment.

Twenty-three per cent said she was not suitable for the job and should not have been appointed. But almost 60 per cent said the attacks on Dame Susan had been unfair and that she deserved a chance.

Netballer Irene van Dyk and former All Black Michael Jones also made the shortlist for the position.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei questioned at the time whether sports stars had the skills required.

Ms Turei told the Herald she still has concerns about whether Dame Susan has enough human rights experience for the job.

Though it was still "early days", Ms Turei said Dame Susan's reaction to a cartoon published in the Marlborough Express had cast doubt on her abilities. Dame Susan condemned an Al Nisbet cartoon for negatively stereotyping Polynesian people but said it did not reach the level of racism specified by the commission's inquiries and complaints process.

"There was no real action taken," said Ms Turei. "At some point during her tenure we're going to need to see some strong, principled statements from her.

"One of the tests will be whether she treats complaints of racism against other ethnicities in the same way."

Judith Collins said she thought Dame Susan was "doing a great job". "One thing is for sure, she has put race relations on the agenda for middle New Zealand and I think that's fantastic."

- NZ Herald

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