Should Susan Devoy’s appointment be squashed?

I don’t know if Susan Devoy would make a good race relations commissioner or not, I know too little about her. I’m a bit of a maverick amongst bloggers, I don’t spend thirty seconds on Google and then rip in to a rant on topics or people I know little about.

I give the people who make appointments like this the benefit of the doubt unless there is good reason to criticise. And it can take time to evaluate, especially with appointments that seem to come out of left court.

Stuff give some opinions in Dame Susan: I have to be voice of reason.

Justice Minister Judith Collins, who appointed her, was firm that the right appointment had been made.

“She’s a very fair, honest and decent person, and frankly, she’s got a spine that I admire.”

If accurate that sounds like a good enough starting point.

Mana Party president Annette Sykes called for Dame Susan to be sacked for her “racist viewpoint”.

Passing the Sykes non-racist test would exclude many people, but I suspect Sykes would fail the test of many too.

What race is Devoy?

Dame Susan Devoy admits she is not yet in a position to make statements as the country’s race relations commissioner – she is not even sure whether she is part-Maori.

“It’s a long-held view that we are of Ngati Kahungunu descent. But that has never been proven in any births, deaths and marriages certificate,” she said, describing questions yesterday about her ethnicity as “awkward”.

“My mother’s name was Tui and if you saw her you would instantly think we were Maori … I think you’re as Maori as you feel.”

I had no idea she was possibly part-Maori. And I wonder if that matters.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples yesterday described the appointment as “fantastic” but his colleague Te Ururoa Flavell questioned whether it was appropriate, given her views on Waitangi Day.

Interesting contrast of opinion there. The Waitangi Day criticism has been prominent.

Yesterday she described Waitangi Day as “extraordinarily important” but “it isn’t New Zealand Day, is it?” she said.

That sounds perceptive to me, Waitangi Day is obviously important to some but many don’t see it as a New Zealand type of day. And ambivalence isn’t along racial lines, Otago Maori chose not to make a big thing of Waitangi Day this year.

There is more to Waitangi and New Zealand than some people wanting an annual soapbox.

“What I would like is to see New Zealand celebrate our national day [in a way] that is a celebration, and perhaps that might be my first role, my first job, sorting it out,” Dame Susan said, before insisting that it wasn’t a public issue and “I certainly won’t be making it one”.

It could be a good thing for her to sort out – perhaps by trying to reconcile a variety of views, but that might be too radical for Sykes.

She had never considered whether she was politically correct enough for the role, but it was “quite possible” she would continue to speak freely.

Being seen as “politically correct enough for the role” would be terrible criteria for the position – political correctness has become a corruption of broad views and understanding.

“But I think in this role I have to be the voice of reason … This is not a platform for me to voice my own views, it’s really to advocate on behalf of.”

That sounds like a reasonable approach to me. She must have said things like that in her job interview.

But I still don’t know enough to decide whether to offer a blogger bouquet or bollocking yet. I sometimes get accused of sitting on the fence, but I prefer to look at it as working out what the fence is made of – and for some reason blogger barbed wire reminds me of pricks and arses.

In any case I’m backing Devoy’s appointment, unless I see good reason it was flawed, and I haven’t seen anything convincing to suggest to me it is.

Leave a comment


  1. Darryl

     /  22nd March 2013

    I agree with you Pete. Let Dame Susan, do the job first, before putting her down. One of Susan’s brothers (Brendon), was best man at my brother’s wedding many years ago now. The Devoy’s are a lovely family, and I am sure they are not racist.

  2. Brown

     /  22nd March 2013

    The left will see anyone who is not overtly pro dark skinned as racist. There is no middle ground in this area. I’d dump the whole stinking and divisive department. Devoy’s biggest battle will be with the staff that work there – will there be even one who is free thinking and balanced and not weighed down by dangling dodads?

    I hope she does well but I suspect the staff meetings will see staff sneering down their mokos and carvings.

  3. Like Minds think Alike…If devoy was such a lovely person and comes from a lovely family and is not a racist, then why would she pen in her own words via her Bay of Plenty Times Blog “The reality is that most New Zealanders either couldn’t care less or are frustrated that what should be a day of national celebration is marred by political shenanigans.”

    “Not much different from the political posturing at Ratana the previous week.”

    “The saving grace is at least this year we do get a public holiday. Last year, we all felt cheated that Waitangi Day fell on a weekend and we were denied that.”

    “So for most of us, it is an opportunity for a day at the beach, the good ol’ Kiwi barbie in the summer sun with little reflection on the meaning of the day.”

    “Waitangi has been hijacked and if it can never be really seen as a day of national celebration then perhaps the time has come to choose another true New Zealand day.”

    “We need a day that doesn’t necessarily replace Waitangi Day but complements it.”

    I thought or maybe my comprehension abilities are rather limited, that demonstrations are part and parcel of a democracy, even by persons of a traditional First Peoples nation upon the Turangawaewae o Te Tii marae Waitangi.

    The 6th February 1840 maybe insignificant to devoy, and thats her democratic right to have that viewpoint, but she must bear in mind that on that insignificant day, a Treaty was signed that was supposed to be a partnership, a relationship between a Tiara and Maoridom and that is still very questionable and debateable.

    She wants an equivalent to an Australia Day, hardly complementing Waitangi Day…I would call it, Apartheid In Action, Separatism, she’s quite welcome like a ‘Tui’ and fly-off over the ‘Ditch’

    A Maori wahine’s Taniko headband is a traditional sacred headress, just as the Burqa is a traditional sacred headress to Muslim wahine.

    There is nothing “disconcerting” at all in being culturally and traditionally proud of a unique race that one is born into and to wear their headress with pride.

    Even Brown above shows his ignorance…He has no comprehension at all about the sanctity of Ta Moko and Whakairo

    As for whether or not devoy is an eighth, a quarter, a half or a whole Maori…It isn’t about one’s genetic makeup, its about understanding through being open to learning about a sacred culture and celebrating that together…I am not so naive to know that will never, ever occur.

  4. Wanting a certificate to prove Maoriness and ‘being as Maori as you feel’ seem contradictory to me. I guess she’s not feeling very Maori. And Otago Maori, like lots of other Maori around the country possibly commemorated the Treaty of Waitangi on the date they actually signed (not everyone signed on 6 Feb).

    I do agree with the principle of what you’re saying here, but I don’t think being fair, honest and decent are qualifications for the job ( They are certainly great qualities to take into such a job, but I hope Collins has other reasons for giving her the job too.

    And, Brown – puh-lease – staff sneering down their mokos and carvings!? What Human Rights Commission staff have you met? And how on earth do you sneer down a carving, and in a staff meeting? Though I must admit it is funny to think about people carrying “their” carvings around and sneering down them in the workplace.

    • Brown

       /  22nd March 2013

      Do you really expect me to believe that a dept that centres on racial policy in NZ will do other than attract those who have strong desire to press a position? In NZ today the dominant position in NZ racial politics is Waitangi, the settlement of supposed breaches and re-writing Maori history to hide their appalling past. There can be simply no room in such a dept for impartiality and those who do not tow a line that is consistent with nebulous things like Treaty Principles would not even get to an interview. Under a far right govt nothing would change as the cycle is too short to change entrenched prejudices within the elite or those who benefit.

      I have not been into this dept but have been into others and in my view the Maori flavour is out of proportion to the size of the pie.

      I regret if offence was caused but as a white middle class male it appears to be all my fault and the shame of being white sometimes pushes me over the edge. If its not my fault why would you be asking me to pay and pay? I’m sick of it and I hope Devoy calls it for the bullshit it is when that’s appropriate.

  5. Friend of Brown

     /  22nd March 2013

    “its about understanding through being open to learning about a sacred culture ”

    “sacred culture.” LOL.

  6. Brown – I haven’t and won’t ask you to believe any thing about the Human Rights Commission staff. I was just responding to your comment about “staff sneering down their mokos and carvings”. You have a great imagination. Kia kaha e hoa.

  7. I wish Waitangi Day was a National Day but it isn’t because it’s not widely celebrated as such. If we did have a National Day then there would be another day to Monday-ise and give us workers another day off. And we’d have two days of national significance to celebrate. It’s a no-brainer to me but the usual liberal suspects insist on getting all butt-hurt about a storm in a tea cup


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