“The SCA notes that the Human Rights Act 1993 (the Act) and the Guidance Document do not provide for the minimum period of office for Commissioners. Section 20F of the Act provides that Commissioners hold office for a term not longer than five years. Paragraph 56 of the Guidance Document states that the ‘Minister may recommend an appointment for a shorter period if there is good reason to do so and the Minister is satisfied that the proposed period of appointment will not interfere with the Commissioners’ ability to carry out their functions independently and appropriately’.
The SCA also notes that the Act and the Guidance Document are silent on the number of times that Commissioners may be reappointed, which leaves open the possibility of unlimited tenure. Paragraph 25 of the Guidance Document states that ‘the Minister may consider recommending that a Commissioner be reappointed for a second, or further, term of office if the Minister considers there are good reasons for doing so’.
An appropriate minimum term of appointment is crucial in promoting the independence of the membership of the NHRI, and to ensure the continuity of its programs and services. The SCA is of the view that an appointment period of three years is considered to be the minimum that would be sufficient to achieve these aims. The SCA is also of the view that in order to promote institutional independence, it would be preferable for the term of office to be limited to one reappointment. As a proven practice, the SCA encourages that a term between three and seven years with the option to renew once be provided for in the NHRI’s enabling law.
The SCA encourages the NZHRC to advocate for amendments to its enabling law to provide for a fixed minimum term of appointment for Commissioners, as well as limits on the number of times that Commissioners may be reappointed.”