Racism toward Chinese and Asian people has been a steady source of human rights complaints during the Covid-19 pandemic - but some people have also complained about funding targeted toward Pacific and Māori communities.

The Human Rights Commission says it's received more than 300 complaints and enquiries related to the Covid-19 pandemic this year.

Among the complainants are people who have taken issue with funding given to Māori and Pacific communities, saying other ethnic groups are missing out.

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The Government announced in April it was putting $17 million toward helping Pacific communities during the Covid-19 crisis, and it had previously announced $30m would be put toward Māori health services.

People being discriminated against when seeking housing based on their health, and the closure of public toilets for disabled people during the lockdown, were also among the 311 coronavirus-related enquiries and complaints the commission had received since January 1.

Concerns have previously been raised about toilet closures, with reports of beachgoers defecating in sand dunes after councils declined to reopen toilets when the country moved to level 3.

On Sunday, Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said there had been a spike in complaints about racism during the pandemic, particularly from Chinese and other Asian people. Foon was worried students of Asian descent would face bullying on returning to school.

"Covid-19 is the most serious human rights emergency Aotearoa New Zealand has experienced since 1945," Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo said.

Measures taken during a national emergency had to be "lawful, proportionate, fair, just, non-discriminatory, and subject to independent scrutiny", she said.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Saunoamaali'i said the coronavirus was not  a reason to discriminate against people because of their race,  colour, ethnic or national origins, disability,  gender, age, health status or on any other grounds.


The Human Rights Commission would continue to monitor and review potential human rights breaches and advise the Government, businesses and other groups about human rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

"We are committed to ensuring that violation of rights of New Zealanders is heard and addressed by duty bearers and decision-makers.

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The Human Rights Commission has launched a website, covid19.hrc.co.nz, to help Kiwis understand their rights during the pandemic.

It also has a form where people can report concerns and experiences related to human rights and Covid-19.

People were encouraged to contact the commission by emailing covid19@hrc.co.nz using the confidential, free service on 0800 496 877.