Last month, the Human Rights Commission published It Happened Here, a digest of race and religious hate crimes in New Zealand. It draws from news reports of hate crimes in the nine years between 2004 to 2012.

As Paul Hunt, the Chief Commissioner, writes: “The Christchurch shootings have re-ignited public debate about hate crime and hate speech, but there is little information available about the extent of racially and religiously motivated crime in New Zealand.”

He adds that “the absence of systematically collected data and information on racially and religiously motivated crime in New Zealand makes it very difficult to have an informed discussion about their prevalence and design effective measures to counter them.”

The summaries below are taken from the annual reports of Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres (2002-2013). Publication of these annual media reports stopped in 2013, because of funding pressures. During Susan Devoy’s term as Race Relations Commissioner, from 2013- 2018, she argued that the police should collect the data on hate crime.

That hasn’t happened — despite calls from the Human Rights Commission since 2004, recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2007 and 2017, and from the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2009.

It’s important to note that the incidents outlined in this report, which we’ve extracted here in full, are just a snapshot. It’s reasonable to assume, as Paul Hunt points out, that these are just the tip of the iceberg.

. . .


Desecration of Jewish cemeteries

Following the desecration of two Jewish cemeteries in Wellington in July and August, Parliament took the unprecedented action of unanimously passing a resolution deploring these acts. Recalling the terrible history of anti-Semitism culminating in the Holocaust, Parliament expressed unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism and all forms of racial and ethnic hatred, persecution and discrimination.

A statement signed by Māori, Pākehā, Pacific, Asian and other ethnic community leaders, religious leaders, mayors and councillors, business and trade union leaders, and community groups was tabled in the House supporting the resolution.

The Speaker also invited community representatives to a forum at Parliament on the way forward for racial harmony. The forum of 250 people heard the ideas that had been put forward by participants beforehand, raised further suggestions, and unanimously adopted the outline of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme.

Reported incidents

Anecdotal evidence and newspaper reports continue to indicate that some ethnic groups suffer harassment and abuse in the streets and elsewhere, ranging from derogatory remarks to verbal and physical abuse. Among reported incidents in 2004 were:

  • Asian students being attacked in Christchurch. (The Press, 3 April)
  • Skinheads taunting and attacking a group of Somali youth in Wellington. (Dominion Post,12 May)
  • Security guards threatening groups of Māori youth with trespass notices in a Hamilton mall. (Waikato Times, 18 May)
  • Attacks on migrants in Palmerston North by suspected National Front members. (Manawatu Standard, 30 June)
  • Desecration of Jewish graves in the Bolton Street and Makara cemeteries in Wellington, and Whanganui. (July/ August)
  • Racist taunts against a Fijian Indian owner driver by staff at a rail depot in Hamilton. (Waikato Times, 7 August)
  • Letters, including pieces of pork, sent to Muslim families in Wellington. (September)
  • An attack on three Asian students in New Plymouth and on the Māori community leader who sought to intervene. (Taranaki Daily News, 1 October.)
  • An attack on Asian students at Mission Bay in Auckland. (East Bays Courier, 6 October)

The emergence of a small National Front group in Christchurch and Wellington led to pro-harmony demonstrations by ethnic groups and other concerned citizens in Christchurch in May and Wellington in September. Police made an arrest in the case of the hate mail to Muslim families and the attack on Somali youth, but many other incidents were either not formally reported to the Police or investigations have been unsuccessful. The Police do not keep separate statistics relating to ethnicity for reported racial offences, treating them as complaints alongside others relating to offences under the Summary Offences and Crimes Acts.



In the absence of Police recording of complaints and prosecutions relating to racially motivated crime it is difficult to assess the extent of the problem. Newspaper reports seem to indicate that there were significantly more prosecutions than usual in 2005.

Cases of racial and religious harassment and abuse successfully prosecuted by the Police included the following:

  • A 51-year-old Christchurch man, who was a member of the National Front, was convicted in the Christchurch District Court in April of spitting at a 57-year-old man of Māori and Indian descent, and sentenced to 120 hours community work.
  • An 18-year-old Nelson woman pleaded guilty in the Nelson District Court in July to charges of repeatedly harassing and assaulting a 17-year-old Asian woman, and was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
  • A 53-year-old Hutt Valley man pleaded guilty in the Wellington District Court in September to sending 30 abusive letters to Muslims in 2004. He was convicted and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay $500 each to three of the victims.
  • A 25-year-old Blenheim man was convicted in the Blenheim District Court in October of disorderly behaviour for yelling abuse at a Muslim woman wearing traditional Muslim headdress, accusing her of being a terrorist and telling her to go home (she had lived in New Zealand for 15 years). He was sentenced to 120 hours community work.
  • Two 18-year-old Auckland men associated with the National Front pleaded guilty in the Ōtahuhu District Court in Auckland to seven charges of intentional damage to places of Muslim worship around Auckland. They were sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay reparations of $5000 each.
  • A 28-year-old Dunedin man was convicted in the Dunedin District Court in November of abusing a 28-year-old Somali woman (wearing a Muslim head- dress) and assaulting a Saudi Arabian Muslim man (after abusing him about his religion). He was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment on the first charge and two months’ imprisonment on the second.
  • A 28-year-old New Plymouth man was charged in the Palmerston North District Court with verbally abusing and physically assaulting three Asian students. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
  • A Whanganui man associated with the National Front was charged in the Wellington District Court with assault for an attack on a group of Somali youth in Wellington in 2004. The outcome was a hung jury and a retrial was scheduled for 2006.
  • A 25-year-old Wairarapa woman was convicted in the Masterton District Court of assaulting a Chinese tourist on a train because she was speaking Chinese to her travelling companion. She was remanded for sentencing in 2006.
  • There were media reports of racial abuse experienced by Pacific players at a national rugby league club match on Auckland’s North Shore (Sunday News, 8 May 2005) and by New Zealand- based West Indian and Pakistani players involved in Taranaki club cricket. (Herald on Sunday, 13 November 2005)



There were a range of media reports of racial harassment:

  • A teen national athletic hope described frequent racial abuse and how his family home’s windows had been smashed in Hamilton. (Sunday News, 19 March)
  • A Korean couple were racially abused and had eggs and stones thrown at them on a Hamilton street. (Waikato Times, 24 May)
  • Several Pacific Island players were subject to racial taunts from the sideline at a senior club game in Taranaki. (Taranaki Daily News, 29 July)
  • A Lower Hutt Islamic Centre was spray painted with swastikas, and windows were smashed. (Dominion Post, 31 July)
  • Vandals targeted a Christchurch synagogue with anti-Semitic graffiti. (New Zealand Herald, 2 August)
  • Racial insults were described as “a fact of life” for Fiji Indian soccer players in Auckland. (Manukau Courier, 10 August)
  • A website targeted New Zealand Jews. (Sunday News, 13 August)
  • An Indian man had racial comments yelled at him on the street in Motueka and he was kicked. (The Nelson Mail, 12 September)
  • West Auckland Muslim women at a bus stop were shot at from a passing car. (One News, 5 December)
  • A New Zealand born Chinese man was taunted and attacked by eight people in Wellington. Members of the group yelled “bloody Asian”. (Dominion Post, 5 December)
  • Racist insults were spray painted on a pre-European rock art site at Raincliff Historic Reserve, South Canterbury. Permanent damage was feared. (The Press, 9 December)



There were a number of media reports of racially motivated crime, harassment and discrimination, including:

  • A Chinese family was subjected to a racist graffiti attack in Palmerston North. They said windows in their grocery store had also been smashed on about four occasions in the past 12 months. (Manawatu Standard, 6 January)
  • A woman was convicted in the Gisborne District Court of a racial attack on a group of Somalis and damage to their vehicle in 2004. (Gisborne Herald, 6 March)
  • Three Korean students in Nelson were attacked by two men described by the Police as skinheads with white supremacist views. The men were subsequently sentenced to jail terms for assault with intent to injure. (Nelson Mail, 28 March)
  • An Indian man was forced to disembark from a Qantas place due to fly from Queenstown to Auckland. The crew said it was because other passengers were uncomfortable flying with him, apparently because he was wearing a turban. (Mountain Scene, 15 March)
  • A Nelson man was arrested and two youths were referred to Youth Aid after what Police described as two racially motivated attacks on Asians in the city. The man attacked a South East Asian woman in her garage, and later the same evening, with the two youths, verbally abused an Indian man. (Nelson Mail, 26 April)
  • A group of Asian teenagers contacted the Northern Advocate saying they were often harassed and many of their peers had “experienced aggression from a very small but disturbing minority in Whāngarei”. They said that despite having spent most of their lives in New Zealand, they were still made to feel like foreigners in a country they called home. (Northern Advocate, 27 April)
  • The captain of the Hamilton Wanderers soccer team resigned after his Somali team-mates were subject to a number of racist remarks by officials from Auckland teams in April. The four Somali players also quit the team after the incidents, saying they felt ostracised by the team as well. (Waikato News, 14 April )
  • Foreign doctors at Whanganui Hospital said they had been targets of racial abuse and some operations had been cancelled when patients learned that a foreign doctor was the operating surgeon. (3 News, 20 June)
  • Asian students said that being the target of flying missiles from cars and verbal abuse was becoming a fact of life for more Asian people in Christchurch. (The Press, 2 August)
  • Three men with shaven heads and wearing masks acted like ‘crazed animals’, bashing a Chinese student with beer bottles and yelling racial taunts during an early morning home invasion in Christchurch. (The Press, 2 August)
  • A teenager was told to remove his painted moko at a soccer game after the opposition complained about it being intimidating. The referee confirmed that he had asked the player to wash off the paint because two players on the opposing team had complained. Asked what would have happened if the moko had been a tattoo, (the referee) said he would have had to consult New Zealand Football. (New Zealand Herald, 10 September)
  • Two players from the Chinese United football team were arrested after the referee was assaulted during a match at Elmwood Park in Christchurch. Players from the Chinese United team say they thought there was ”a little” racial motivation to the fight. They were being call “Chinese f…….” during the match. (The Press, 3 September)
  • Six Jewish graves in Wellington’s Karori cemetery were painted with anti-Semitic graffiti following the publication of an interview with the Israeli Ambassador in the Dominion Post. (Dominion Post, 1 November)
  • A Taiwanese born teenager and her two younger brothers were assaulted and told to ‘go back to China’ by five young girls in Tauranga. (Bay of Plenty Times, 14 November)
  • An Indian man was racially abused as a ”terrorist” and a “Paki” and was punched in the face by a group of five or six men while getting into a taxi in Queenstown. (Mountain Scene, 15 November)
  • A Taupō man appeared in court for verbally abusing a group of boys in Napier for “hanging around” with an Asian boy and then racially abusing the Asian boy, spitting at him and hitting him in the face. (New Zealand Herald, 22 November)
  • An Invercargill man was arrested in Queenstown for offensive behaviour for allegedly yelling racist slurs such as “white power” from the passenger window of a vehicle. (Mountain Scene, 13 December)
  • A Dunedin academic said his Chinese family members were abused at a children’s playground by teenagers driving by. He said his wife, a New Zealand citizen who had lived in the country for ten years, dealt with racism on a daily basis in Dunedin. Supermarket assistants spoke down to her because of her accent or spoke very slowly despite the fact his wife had three university degrees and was about to complete her PhD. Other people sounded their car horns while she was driving, even though she had not made a mistake. (Otago Daily Times, 24 December)



Race hate murder

A 2008 Police inquiry indicated that a 25-year-old Korean economics student Jae Hyeon Kim was murdered because of his race in 2003. Jae Hyeon Kim was on a 12-month backpacking holiday in New Zealand when he disappeared en route from Westport to Greymouth in September-October 2003. A missing person inquiry in 2004 failed to find anything, but when the Police re-opened the inquiry in May 2008 they received two anonymous letters.

This led to the arrest in June 2008 of a 28-year-old Nelson fisherman and two other men, whose details were suppressed. A number of skinhead supporters attended when the defendants first appeared in court

At a depositions hearing in the Greymouth District Court in October 2008, one of the men pleaded guilty to the murder. The other two were committed to a trial scheduled for June 2009 in Greymouth. During the depositions hearing the Police located Jae Hyeon Kim’s body near Charleston, south of Westport.

The man, who pleaded guilty to the murder charge, was sentenced to 21 years without parole in December 2008. An appeal against the sentence was lodged.

Jae Hyeon’s mother and brother travelled to New Zealand to visit the site of the murder and attend the sentencing. They also attended a funeral at Nelson’s Marsden House, where they were joined by members of the Nelson Multi-Ethnic Council, a representative of the Race Relations Commissioner and other concerned citizens.

Reverend Taeil Choi of the Nelson Full Gospel Korean Church paid tribute to a bright student whose life was too short. He said Jae Hyeon Kim had been drawn to New Zealand because he, like many other young Koreans, believed it was a peaceful country, free of violence and aggression. He said those responsible for Mr Kim’s death had carried the disease of racial hatred: “For the sake of Jae Hyeon Kim, we should all commit ourselves to making this city of Nelson, and our country as a whole, a place where people are welcomed, and a place where all cultures and all people are tolerated equally.”

Media reports of race-related incidents

There were a number of media reports of racially motivated crime, harassment, assault and discrimination, including the following:

  • A Nelson man was charged with disorderly and threatening behaviour after verbally abusing two Chinese people as they walked down the street, calling them “Asian monkeys”. He later admitted to abusing them, saying that “he had a right to”. The judge sentenced him to 200 hours of community service and warned him “racist taunts are strongly disapproved of”. (Nelson Mail, 23 January)
  • Members of Christchurch’s Somali community reported an increase in incidences of abuse after an alleged hijacking attempt by a Somali woman in February. A woman was verbally abused by a group of young men in a car and was called a “terrorist”. (The Press, 11 February)
  • Two men were arrested and charged with intimidation in New Plymouth in February after racially abusing a group of Asian people at a playground. At their court hearing, the defence said there was no neo-Nazi motivation behind the abuse. They were sentenced to two months’ imprisonment. (Taranaki Daily News, 15 February)
  • A Taupo man was sentenced in February to six months’ home detention and ordered to pay $350 reparation for racial abuse and assault of an Asian teenager in Napier in July 2007. (New Zealand Herald, 16 February)
  • A skinhead was found guilty by a High Court jury for trying to corrupt a juror during a white supremacist trial. He allegedly left a note on the juror’s doorstep with a swastika on it and the words “not guilty” during the trial of four men charged with the kidnapping of a Canadian Indian tourist. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for seeking to influence the jury. (Stuff, 9 April)
  • Eight Danish and English tourists were attacked in central Christchurch in April because they “spoke funny”. Six were taken to Christchurch Hospital, including two with knife wounds. (The Press, 14 April)
  • Police in Westport charged two men in relation to an attack on an Irish tourist in April. The attack was, “without provocation and appears to have occurred only because the victim spoke with an accent”. One man was fined $250 for disorderly behaviour and the other sentenced to 200 hours of community work, ordered to pay $4000 reparations and required to undertake drug addiction counselling and treatment. (The Press, 23 April)
  • A Hamilton gaming shop was reportedly vandalised in what the manager said could be racially motivated attacks. One such attack was targeted at the manager’s friend, who was assaulted as he left the shop by a man who had been making Nazi salutes at the windows and yelling white power slogans. (Waikato Times, 3 May)
  • A man pleaded guilty in the Wellington District Court to assaulting his daughter, saying it was for religious reasons. He is an Assyrian Christian and said that he had assaulted his daughter because she was going out with a Muslim. He was given a 12 month suspended sentence. (NZPA, 14 May)
  • A man involved in the white supremacist kidnapping of a Canadian Indian tourist two years ago was sent to jail after ignoring the directives of the court. The man refused to complete his community service because he had received death threats while carrying out his sentence at the community work centre. The judge said the failure to complete community service had made a mockery of what was a very generous sentence. The man was sentenced to 10 months in prison. (NZPA, 6 June)
  • Racists threats were made in an anonymous letter to the principal of a kura kaupapa in Rotorua. He had been outspoken about Māori issues, including the use of te reo Māori. He contributed to a policy change by Land Transport New Zealand in regard to Māori signs on school buses and advocated for Māori wards to be established in Rotorua. (NZPA, 18 June)
  • A 19-year-old Nelson fisherman who chanted “white power” at two Māori women was sentenced in the Nelson District Court to 100 hours of community service. He admitted one charge of disorderly behaviour and one charge of possessing a pipe to smoke cannabis. (Nelson Mail, 9 July)
  • Swastikas and obscenities were written on a Burmese family’s car in Lower Hutt. This was the third attack on the family who said that they no longer felt safe at their home. (Dominion Post, 15 July)
  • Southern Institute of Technology Chief Executive Penny Simmonds told a meeting of Venture Southland that two Indian students had decided to return home after they were abused by a carload of youths for wearing turbans. (Southland Times, 7 October)
  • A 19-year-old Nelson man was convicted in the Nelson District Court of using offensive language in public. He swore at a Saudi Arabian student, called him a terrorist and told him to go home. (Nelson Mail, 18 November)
  • A Filipino schoolgirl had stones thrown at her on a bus in Christchurch, was called a “bloody Asian” and told to go back to her own country by three teenage boys. (The Press, 29 November)
  • An African-American migrant left Christchurch after being attacked in a Lyttelton street in October. She was surrounded by six people, who started shouting abuse and threatening her. The group of men and women used such words as “nigger” and “blackie” and told her to “go home”. A man was charged by the Police with threatening behaviour. (The Press, 19 December)
  • A 32-year-old unemployed Nelson man was convicted of a range of offences, including careless use of a motor vehicle, assault and threatening behaviour for two incidents on the same day in Nelson in June. He had abused and threatened an Asian man pumping up his car tyres at a service station. In the afternoon he abused another Asian man and two friends from his car outside a supermarket. He swerved towards them, struck the victim and attempted to pin him against a fence then threw a bottle of bourbon at him. A member of the public stopped to help the victim and his friends. The man was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for what the judge called “disgraceful behaviour”, and said it was essential the court denounced the offending because of its racial undertones. Another man was sentenced to 300 hours’ community work for his involvement in one of the incidents. (Nelson Mail, 22 November)
  • The Manawatu Chinese Trust reported that racism was on the rise in Palmerston North, with taunts and food being thrown at members of the Chinese community. A helpline set up by the trust was getting up to 60 calls a week, with a third relating to racism. This compared with a couple of calls a day when the helpline was first set up in 2007. A Trust member who had moved to Palmerston North nine years previously with her husband and children said she had noticed a big change. “Last year I was walking along Milverton Park with my husband when a group of men strode towards us yelling “white is good, yellow is bad”. They followed us for a few blocks home, jumping in front of us, pulling the Nazi salute. Several times when we go walking, people have yelled at us.” Another Trust member said he had reached the point where he will soon call the Police. He believed constant attacks on his car over the past three years are racially motivated. “Every few months we come out in the morning to find rubbish on our car – one day they painted a black skull on the window. I don’t know who did it, but we are the only Asian people in our area and no-one else in the street has had any problem. Whoever did it knows what we are and where we are from.” (Manawatu Standard, 10 January 2009)



Compared to previous years, there were fewer media reports of incidents of racially motivated crime, harassment and assault. Reports this year included:

  • Five Indian students in Invercargill said they had been repeatedly labelled terrorists, told to “leave our country” and been racially abused. There had been 16 separate incidents in the previous 12 days. (Southland Times, 3 March)
  • “White supremacists” terrorised people in an Invercargill street, painted swastikas on the road outside their house and drove their neighbours to move away after thefts of property and vandalism to their house. (Southland Times, 27 March)
  • Two men who bombed a South Auckland temple and defaced it with racist messages failed to get their sentence reduced at the High Court in Auckland (New Zealand Herald, 4 April)
  • An Indian taxi driver in Auckland was beaten and humiliated by four male passengers. When he asked them for the fare, the men punched him to the ground, racially abused him and removed his turban. (New Zealand Herald, 14 April)
  • A 44-year-old Pacific Island taxi driver in Waitakere City received head injuries and bruised ribs in an attack by three assailants. He was hit with a rock through his open driver’s window, and when he got out of the taxi was punched and kicked to the ground. (Western Leader, 23 April)
  • The Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by a Nelson man against his minimum 21-year-jail sentence for the race-hate murder of Korean backpacker Jae Hyeon Kim in 2003. The court said, “It is impossible to view the total circumstances without real concern that this man demonstrates a wanton disregard for humanity, as he has embraced extreme bigotry and racism.” (The Press, 6 May)
  • An Indo-Fijian student was attacked at Linwood College in Christchurch. He suffered a cracked cheekbone, chipped tooth, a cut to the head and extensive bruising. (The Press, 7 August)
  • A 25-year-old Korean homestay student was attacked at a bus stop in Papanui, Christchurch. He was racially abused, had a knife held to his throat, was bitten on the arm and hit and kicked to the ground by a heavily intoxicated man and two women. (The Press, 1 September)
  • A 13-year-old Thai homestay student was told to “f..k off back to your own country” and punched in the head by two fellow pupils from Avonside High School, Christchurch. Her homestay parent said her other Thai homestay student had been punched at a shopping centre in June and had a tooth broken. (The Press, 3 September)
  • A Japanese teahouse in Nelson’s Myazu Gardens was firebombed on the eve of the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival. (Nelson Mail, 14 September)

While a reduction in incidents reported in the media is welcome, the actual number of complaints, prosecutions and convictions are still not recorded by the Police. In the course of the United Nations Human Rights Council review of New Zealand’s human rights performance in May, the issue of recording Police complaints was raised again. The government accepted the recommendation that this data be collected, but said it was not a priority.

Courts take dim view of attack on Manurewa Gurdwara

In a case not widely reported by the media, two 20-year-old men were sentenced in the Manukau District Court in February to two years and nine months imprisonment. They were accused of throwing pipe bombs at the Narskar Thath Isher Dabar Sikh Temple in Manurewa, engaging in threatening acts and painting obscenities on the temple walls. In addition to sexual obscenities, they painted a swastika, the letters KKK and the words “fukin rag heads” on the walls. The offences took place from April to August 2008. Judge Blackie imposed a deterrent sentence, to make clear to all New Zealanders this type of conduct would not be tolerated.

He described their actions as, “racist, abusive and demeaning” and expressed abhorrence on behalf of the community at what had occurred. The men appealed the length of their sentence to the High Court. Judge Heath dismissed the appeal, citing other cases in which racial hostility had been considered an aggravating factor in sentencing. He said, “The attack on the temple involved violent conduct … It was a persistent attack, through physical and psychological means, on those who used the temple. Targeting the temple on four separate occasions over a period of more than three months makes it implausible to suggest that [the men] were not motivated by racial, religious, colour or ethnic hostility.”



The media continue to report sporadic incidents of racially motivated violence, ranging from verbal abuse to severe physical assault. There is no way to establish the actual extent of racially motivated crime. This is because the government has not yet honoured its commitment to the United Nations Human Rights Council to introduce a system of data collection to capture this information. Media reports reflect that most incidents are directed at Asians and occur in the South Island. Some noteworthy media reports are mentioned or discussed below:

  • A refugee family from Bhutan claimed they had been driven out of their state house in Christchurch because their neighbours’ children abused them, urinated on their lawn, threw dog food at their house and water bombs at their children. (TV3 News, 7 January)
  • In February 2010, an Asian student was left beaten and bloodied after an assault by four skinhead youths at a bus stop outside the Palms Mall in Christchurch. Witnesses believed the attack was racially motivated. (The Press, 23 February)
  • In April, an African American basketball player was subjected to racial taunts by a group of youths while he was socialising with fellow Otago team members in Dunedin. He received a massive hit from behind and suffered a serious concussion. He also had a black eye and a cut to the back of his head. (Newstalk ZB, 13 April)
  • In April, a man who had admitted murdering a South Korean tourist on the West Coast in 2003 was sentenced in the Christchurch High Court to life imprisonment, with a minimum-parole period of 16 years and three months. The judge told him the murder was committed “with a high degree of callousness” and was clearly a racist killing. “It was very significant that Mr Kim was Asian. You have white supremacist, neo-Nazi beliefs. You regarded him (Kim) as not deserving of the same dignity and respect as a white person.” (The Press, 29 April)
  • A 21-year-old man, was sentenced in the Hastings District Court to two years andthree months jail for terrorising a 71-year-old Indian man, knocking off his turban and punching out his false teeth. The judge noted that the man had continued to use racist terms and showed no remorse to his victim. He said he was allowed to hold whatever views he liked, but he could not act on them. “It is what you do that makes the difference and of course we don’t condone this kind of conduct in our society. Quite frankly, this was a disgraceful race-based attack. Not the kind we’re used to in New Zealand and we certainly don’t tolerate that kind of behaviour.” (Dominion Post, 6 August)
  • In Christchurch, a Filipino woman had a four-litre tin of paint thrown over her as she was putting her children into her car. The paint went all over her and her car, and some splattered on her two-year-old daughter. The offenders, described as two European teenagers, laughed as they drove away. (The Press, 9 August)
  • A Zimbabwean teenager was set upon by a skinhead as he left a bottle store in Christchurch. He was shoved and hit in the face by the man, who appeared to be intoxicated. (The Press, 9 August)
  • Two men were convicted in the Christchurch District Court for head- butting and punching an Indian man in Cathedral Square. The man had been waiting outside a tourist hotel when the pair got out of a car and approached him, asking what he was up to and what he was doing in this country (he was a New Zealand resident). Both offenders were drunk. One walked up and head-butted the man, and the other walked round behind and punched him in the head. When hotel staff were called, the pair ran to the car, telling the victim to “get out of the country”. The judge said they were, “a disgrace to Christchurch. This was a completely unprovoked attack on a visitor to the city, which had racial overtones.” (NZPA, 24 September)
  • A Chinese student from Lynfield College, Auckland, claimed he was racially abused in August by the manager of a supermarket. (New Zealand Herald, 17 September)
  • A 15-year-old Māori youth was repeatedly stabbed in the face and body on a riverbank after a Christmas concert in Christchurch’s Hagley Park. Witnesses told Police the attackers, who appeared to be skinheads, were using racial slurs against the victim. (The Press, 29 November)



There were sporadic media reports of racially motivated crime, although less than in previous years. They were:

  • Three-metre wide swastikas were sprayed on the field and buildings at Okara Park in Whangarei before a Warriors pre-season rugby league match in February. (Newstalk ZB, 19 February)
  • Two Thai women were verbally abused and one was punched in the face by two young women in central Nelson in May. The offenders were dealt with by Youth Aid and wrote letters to the Thai women to apologise. (The Nelson Mail, 6 May)
  • A 34-year-old man from New Plymouth was sentenced to 225 hours of community work and ordered to pay $3407 to his Indian neighbours after he yelled at them and used a machete to scratch the panel work on their two cars. He told the court he was angry that they were speaking a foreign language and that he acted in the way that he did because he wanted to get the message across in a way they would understand. (Taranaki Daily News, 3 September)
  • A man and a woman were charged with encouraging their dogs to attack a Filipino man and a Japanese student in Christchurch at Easter. The woman pleaded guilty to assault in the Christchurch District Court, saying she was “trying to make a statement about immigrants” who she claimed were taking the jobs of New Zealanders. She was remanded for sentencing in March 2012. The man pleaded not guilty and was remanded to reappear at a later date. (The Press, 10 October)
  • A woman was racially abused and had a lit firework thrown at her from a car by a group of European teenagers while jogging in a Rotorua suburb on Guy Fawkes Day. (Rotorua Daily Post, 7 November)

Chinese student hospitalised after attack

In August, a Chinese man was the victim of racist comments and an attack at an Invercargill service station. Comments were directed at the man and his passengers by an 18-year-old passenger in another car at the service station.

The pair exchanged words then the offender punched the man in the face. The force broke the man’s glasses and a shard of glass went into his eyelid, causing a laceration. He was taken to hospital and underwent surgery.

The man was an international student and as a result of the attack could not study and failed one of his classes. He has since returned to China.

The offender was sentenced to six months home detention, 200 hours community work and ordered to pay $1000 reparation.



Flurry of racial vandalism in Auckland

There were three separate incidents of racial vandalism in the course of a week in Auckland in October.

Twenty gravestones in the historic Jewish quarter of a cemetery in central Auckland were vandalised and spray painted with Nazi insignia and slogans. Police arrested three youths and charged them with wilful damage. Charges against one were subsequently withdrawn for lack of evidence. Of the other two, one aged 19, pleaded guilty in November to a charge of intentional damage, and was due to be sentenced in February 2013; the other, aged 20, pleaded not guilty and was due to reappear in court in January 2013.

In what was assumed to be a copy-cat incident, an unoccupied house in Grey Lynn, Auckland was broken into and defaced with similar slogans a few days later. Also that same week, a bullet was fired through the front window of the office of an immigration consultant and former Immigration Minister, causing the window to shatter. National Front style slogans were painted on the footpath outside.

There was speculation that the cemetery attack was to give publicity to the annual Flag Day march to Parliament on Labour Day by fringe national socialist and white supremacy groups, the National Front and the Right Wing Resistance, but spokespeople for these groups, Colin Ansell and Kyle Chapman, denied any connection with the incident. Less than 40 people attended the national flag march, and Ansell told 3 News that his group’s biggest problem was maintaining its transient membership and getting them to pay the $15 a year membership fee.

Jail and home detention for racial attack in Dunedin

Three unemployed young people in Dunedin were sentenced to prison or home detention for abusing and assaulting a Korean family in Dunedin at Easter, and for then assaulting a student who tried to intervene. The family, who were visiting from Auckland, were walking along Dunedin’s main street when the drunken trio began shouting racist remarks at them, threw a bottle and punched one of the group in the face.

One woman, aged 22, was sentenced to six months in prison for the assault, another woman, aged18, was sentenced to three months in prison, and a man, aged 18, to two months home detention. All three were also convicted of other unrelated offences. In sentencing one of the offenders, Judge Stephen Coyle said it was entirely unacceptable and abhorrent that anyone should be taunted simply because of their race “or looking different from you”.

Owners jailed for dog attacks on Asians in Christchurch

A man and a woman were sentenced to eight months in prison for setting their dog onto Asian people in Christchurch. A woman (18) and her former boyfriend (24) admitted to the court that they had associated with an extreme right wing group and that the attacks were racially motivated.

The woman had yelled abuse at a Vietnamese man, told her dog to kill him, punched him and tried to hit him with a beer bottle. When he took shelter in a shop she stomped on the bags of groceries he had dropped, threw items at the shop door, and yelled for him to go back to his own country.

A few months later, the pair met a man from the Philippines, and set their dogs on him in Lincoln Road, Addington. The woman let her dog off the leash to let it chase him. The dogs jumped up and tried to bite his shoulders, damaging his jacket, while he took shelter inside a property and then inside a flat.

A Japanese woman was then confronted nearby. The dogs were encouraged to attack her while she huddled in a corner until help arrived. The woman was taken to hospital for treatment for a bite wound and scratches.

In sentencing the pair, Judge Doherty said, “The main purpose of the sentencing is deterrence.” He noted the special provisions of the Sentencing Act for racially motivated crimes.

The judge also ordered the dog to be put down, saying, “It’s not the dog’s fault, but it seems to me it has been socialised into activities that could lead to greater risks in the future”.


It Happened Here: Reports of race and religious hate crime in New Zealand 2004-2012 was published by the Human Rights Commission in June 2019.

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