Meng Foon Biography, Age, Family, Wife, Children, Education, Career, Resigns As Race Relations Commissioner, And More

Meng Foon is a New Zealand politician who served as the mayor of Gisborne from 2001 to 2019. He served as New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner from August 2019 to June 2023 and resigned after failing to declare 2 million USD in payments. he obtained emergency housing as a director of an investment company. He is one of a handful of people of Chinese descent to become mayor of New Zealand. He is fluent in English, Cantonese and Maori. When he left the mayor’s office, he was the only mayor in New Zealand who was fluent in Maori.






Birthplace-Gisborne, North Island of New Zealand



Nationality- New Zealand


Meng Foon was born in Gisborne in the North Island of New Zealand in August 1959. His mother is Ng Heng Kiu (Helen) from Hong Kong and his father is Liu Sui Kai (George) from Guangzhou. Foon’s parents were market gardeners who ran a greengrocer in Gisborne. Foon also has a brother.

Meng Foon Son

Wife And Children

At the age of 21, Foon married his wife Ying, who was 20 years old at the time. The couple have two daughters and a son.

meng-foon Wife


Foon attended Makaraka School, where he learned about Maori culture, including linen and the haka war dance. Foon later attended Gisborne High School and Gisborne Boys’ High School. Foon studied English, social studies, science, physical education and Maori at Gisborne Boys’ High School. Foon also played rugby in high school. Foon dropped out of high school in the sixth grade to help run his family’s gardening business.


Business Career

Foon expanded his family’s gardening business into several stores. In the 1960s, Foon and his family also bought Gisborne’s Kaiti Mall and opened a liquor store called TAB. In 1985, Foon’s parents retired and moved to Sydney, Australia, before retiring to Hong Kong. Meng, his brothers, and their wives later took over the family business.

In 2018, Foon and his relatives sold Kaiti Mall. At the time, the Kaiti Mall land and buildings were valued at NZ$3.8 million. As of 2018, Kaiti Mall had 12 tenants, including corporate, government and commercial tenants.

Meng Foon Career

A Career In Local Government 

In 1995, Foon worked as a councillor for the Patutahi Taruheru ward of the Gisborne District Council, prompted by two detectives. At the time, current councillor Owen Pinching announced his retirement. Foon won the local government elections in 1995 and was elected to Taruheru Ward in Patutahi.

In 1998, Foon applied unsuccessfully for the position of mayor of Gisborne. In 2001, Foon applied again for the position of mayor of Gisborne and was successfully elected. During his mayoral campaign, he emphasized his family values, business skills, Māori language skills and financial management skills. He was the first person to serve five consecutive terms as Mayor of Gisborne since Harry Barker retired in 1977. In 2016, Foon won a sixth consecutive term as Mayor of Gisborne, defeating three other candidates. His mayoralty included the entire territory of the easternmost province of New Zealand, where most of the indigenous population is Maori (45 according to the 2013 New Zealand Census).

Following the confirmation of the Ngāti Porou treaty agreed under the controversial Coast and Seabed Act 2004, Foon was quoted as saying “he did not believe that many people would be disadvantaged by restricting access to the beach as 90 per cent of the population on the east coast. was Maori anyway”.  Foon announced in March 2019 that he would no longer be a candidate in the 2019 local elections.

On 8 August 2019, Gisborne District Council voted unanimously to appoint Deputy Mayor Rehette Stoltz as Mayor, following Foon’s official resignation on 22 August 2019.

Race Relations Commissioner

In July 2019, Attorney General Andrew Little confirmed that Fooni had been appointed as the new Race Relations Commissioner, with his term starting on 26 August 2019.

In December 2019, Foon criticized cartoonist Garrick Tremain’s cartoon in the Otago Daily Times which highlighted the Samoan measles epidemic, calling it a slap in the face to the victims’ families.

In August 2020, Foon criticized West Coast District Councillor Alan Birchfield for calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”. In response, Birchfield denied racism, saying “we all know where that came from”. Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine and Gray Mayor Tania Gibson distanced themselves from Birchfield’s remarks.

In early November 2020, Race Relations Commissioner Foon defended Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s kauae mock face tattoos after right-wing blogger Olivier Pierson derided them as “the height of ugly and uncivilized awakening”. According to Foon, Mahuta kauae moko was special to Maori and should be celebrated. He also encouraged people to abandon their racism and prejudices and accept that the world is changing, and the Maori economy is growing.

In March 2021, Meng Foon added his voice to those calling for an end to Police Ten 7, causing controversy. Meng Foon later retracted his statement.

In late November 2022, Foon criticized newly elected Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson for interrupting the karakia (Maori prayer) of Maori ward councilor Pera Paniora. He noted that it is very important that councils and all organizations create the right space for Maori to respect the Treaty of Waitangi and express their culture and language.

In March 2023, Foon called on Mayor of Invercargill Nobby Clark to apologise after the latter made a series of racial, profane, and violent words and phrases during an Art Foundation New Zealand event in Invercargill in order to draw attention to limits on free speech and profanity.

Why Meng Foon Resigns As Race Relations Commissioner?

Meng Foon resigned as New Zealand’s race relations commissioner on Friday after failing to disclose a conflict of interest.

Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt wrote to the government last month detailing the secret conflict.

Foon was a director of a company that received government payments during that term.

Meng Foon Resigns

These included more than $2 million for housing, including emergency marriage. Deputy Attorney General Deborah Russell initially considered the issue, deeming it important enough to remove his from the role.

But Foon resigned before a decision was made, she said.

“Had the process been completed, I would probably have found that his actions constituted a serious breach of the Chronic Entities Act and would have taken the next steps to recommend to the Governor-General that he be removed from office,” Russell said. Said.

“It is vital that all people appointed to public office fulfil their duties under the law. Meng Foon had several opportunities to properly declare these interests, but he did not.”

In a statement to Checkpoint, Foon said he vehemently denies failing to disclose his conflict of interest as an emergency accommodation provider to the Human Rights Commission and the Department of Justice before being appointed race relations commissioner in July 2019.  He said he was resigning because his company was a provider of emergency housing and because of his political donations.

“I informed the Prime Minister that I was resigning on June 18 and then formally informed Minister Deborah Russell this Sunday by sending her a letter, but the news hit me,” he said.

According to Foon, the amount received was approximately $2.3 million over five years from 2018 to 2023.

However, he said he was transparent with the commission when his accountant declared the amount when asked by the chief commissioner, although no financial details were disclosed.

“At the Housing Inquiry Board meeting [the Human Rights Commission’s emergency housing inquiry], I didn’t declare a perceived conflict because I didn’t think I had to.”

He later said he should have reported it and admitted he made a mistake.  In a statement, Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said Foon was “a human being” who made an “unfortunate mistake”.



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