Government ministers say they don't see the need for a specific hate crime offence in New Zealand because such offences are rare.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said today that police and the Human Rights Commission were investigating whether a new category of offence should be created.
Justice Minister Amy Adams said the commissioner had not yet been raised the issue with her. But regardless, she did not believe it was warranted in this country.
"My take on it is we have a very low level of that sort of behaviour in New Zealand," she told reporters at Parliament.
"And when it does come up, I haven't seen any indication that our offence framework fails to deal with it."
Speaking to a select committee at Parliament this morning, Bush said there were anecdotal reports that hate crimes were on the rise, though it was difficult to measure because police did not keep records of this type of offending.
He made the comments following an incident in Huntly on Saturday in which a Muslim woman was racially abused.
It was unclear whether these crimes were occurring more often or whether they were receiving more coverage, Bush said. Nor was it possible to know whether the anecdotal reports related to racist, homophobic or other attacks.
Police were discussing with the Human Rights Commission whether a specific hate crime offence should be written into the law.
"We have crime categories at the moment ... that do apply, but we are just working through the pros and cons of whether or not it would be the right thing," Bush said.
In the Huntly case, the attacker Megan Sarah Louise Walton was charged with behaving in an insulting manner that was likely to cause violence. She was also charged with two accounts of assault after abusing Muslim woman Mehpara Khan outside a public toilet near State Highway 1 on Saturday.
Bush said police were looking at whether it was appropriate to have "a more relevant and specific piece of legislation" to cover similar offending.
"As a commissioner, you never want to see things like that. You never want to see communities treated in that way."
Police Minister Paula Bennett said the attack was "abhorrent" but the abuser had been held to account.
"I don't see the need for specific hate crime legislation at the moment. It's not something that's on our agenda."