Meng Foon has taken up the appointment of Race Relations Commissioner, after 24 years at the Gisborne District Council. Mr Foon was elected as a councillor in 1995 and in 2001 he was elected Mayor, a role he held for 18 years. He is one of a handful of people of Chinese descent to have become a mayor in New Zealand. He is fluent in English, Siyip and Te Reo Māori. As of 2019, he is still the only mayor in New Zealand who is fluent in Te Reo. He is a member of a number of community organisations including the Ngā Taonga a nā Tama Toa Trust, the New Zealand Chinese Association, and Aotearoa Social Enterprise Trust. He has released a musical number, Tu Mai. He has been chair of Gisborne/Tarawhiti Rugby League since 1989, and was a member of the New Zealand Rugby League Board.
Mr Foon is responsible for leading the work of the Human Rights Commission in promoting positive harmonious race relationships. Justice Minister Andrew Little said the following of Mr Foon’s appointment: “He has an outstanding record as a relationship builder and walks comfortably in the pākehā world, the Māori world, the Chinese community and other communities making up New Zealand. Race relations is a priority area for the Human Rights Commission. We need to continue to break down barriers to racial and ethnic equality in New Zealand society. This is an exciting appointment to a role that presents enormous challenges but tremendous possibilities.”