Devoy will 'surprise on the upside' - Key

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 09:17 25/03/2013
Devoy
EMMA ALLEN/Fairfax NZ
SUSAN DEVOY: A "practical New Zealander".
JOHN KEY
KEVIN STENT
JOHN KEY: "I think [Devoy] will surprise on the upside and I think she'll do better than people think".

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Prime minister John Key has defended new Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy as a "practical New Zealander" who will "surprise on the upside".

Key denied the Government was trying to devalue the role by employing a squash star with limited experience.

Devoy has come under fire for newspaper columns she penned in the past on wearing the burqa and on Waitangi Day.

But Key said she was "strong" and had a view.

"I think she will surprise on the upside and I think she'll do better than people think," he said.

"She's proven herself on the sports arena in terms of being a brilliant squash player, world champion.

"She's done a lot of work in her local area, Rotorua, sort of Taupo area, and, you know, she's just good person.

"I think she understands New Zealand issues and she'll do a very good job."

Key stressed he believed the commissioner's role was important.

"It's still relevant," he said.

But he questioned what experience was needed for "good, harmonious race relations".

"A lot of people coming into that job will have limited experience ... I think you need a good strong sense of the ethnic makeup of New Zealand, the challenges that people face, where the country is going, being strong and able to stand up when you see aspects of racism," he said.

"Well, I'm sure Susan is going to do that."

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell has questioned Devoy's appointment and Mana party president Annette Sykes said Devoy had limited understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi and should stand down.

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