By Eleisha Foon for RNZ

As New Zealand makes strong progress in eliminating Covid-19, there are also calls to "flatten the racism curve".

The Human Rights Commission says racism has risen sharply in the pandemic.

Since the end of March, it has received more than 250 complaints relating to Covid-19 and 82 were race-related.


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Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said there was a particular rise in bullying and harassment of people from Chinese and Asian descent.

The proportion of race-related complaints to the Humans Rights Commission include:

• 30 per cent Chinese/Asian
• 28 per cent Muslims
• 14 per cent Indians
• 5 per cent Māori and Pasifika

According to the Human Rights Commission, Chinese/Asians do not normally report complaints because of cultural barriers, which was highlighted as particularly concerning.

"It is disappointing and we must also flatten the curve of racism too," Foon said.

The Human Rights Commission noted complaints of racial harassment online via social media, and indifferent treatment for customers of Asian descent in supermarkets.

He said people should not tolerate the ill-treatment of others and encouraged people to record and report any racism to the Human Rights Commission.


In response to battling racism, the commission is advocating for anti-racism government leadership and continuing to push a prevention campaign, Give Nothing to Racism.

Foon had also been in touch with school advisory boards to encourage awareness around the anti-racism campaign and to "keep spreading the message of kindness".

The Human Rights Commission was also proposing a survey for Chinese/Asian to collect data of experiences of racism during the crisis in response to the dearth of evidence. A survey would also capture racism towards Māori and Pacific people.

He said as the lockdown levels dropped, racism may again increase and was concerned about school and workplace bullying related to Covid-19.

"I'm pre-empting that when our Asian kids go back to school there will be an unnecessary blame game. We have been actively associating with the government and schools, keeping them informed."

The commission has made it easier to report racism and discrimination by calling 0800 496 877 or emailing