Continuing discrimination against Asians needs to be addressed and the high rate of Maori imprisonment is bleak, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says.

Mr de Bres outlined the highs and lows for race relations in New Zealand over the past year at the Diversity Forum in Christchurch today.

He said progress had been made on some issues, noting that expressions of prejudice and discrimination have generally been condemned by the public and media.

However, there was still "some way to go to establish a level playing ground for all ethnicities".

He noted increased unemployment among Maori, Pacific people and Asians.

In the year to June, the Maori unemployment rate rose from 12.0 to 14.3 per cent, the Pacific unemployment rate increased from 12.8 to 14.1 per cent, and the Asian unemployment rate rose from 7.8 to 10.5 per cent, compared with a rise from 4.0 to 4.4 per cent for European New Zealanders.

Increasing rates of youth unemployment were more worrying, particularly for Maori, Pacific people and Asians.

The unemployment rate for 15-to-19-year-olds was now 41.4 per cent for Maori, 43.3 per cent for Pacific youths, and 28.4 per cent for Asians, compared with 21.7 per cent for Europeans.

Mr de Bres also stressed the need for the new Auckland super city council to have Maori seats and secure Pacific and ethnic boards.

- NZPA