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Speaking at a University of Otago event today as part of its Give Nothing to Racism Campaign, Prof Hunt said racism had been an issue in New Zealand long before the Christchurch mosque killings.
However, events last Friday should galvanise the nation into action, he told an audience of more than 350 people.
"New Zealand is a well-established democracy, and it should have the maturity to recognise that it has major human rights problems,'' Prof Hunt said.
"When I took up the position of chief human rights commissioner a few weeks ago I felt a sense of complacency in New Zealand about the country's human rights situation.
"Because of last week's attacks. I hope that complacency has now evaporated, and it is no longer treasonable to ask what are New Zealand's major human rights problems?''
Prof Hunt was part of a team from the commission which was in Christchurch for the aftermath of the shootings, to help and offer support where they could.
"We encountered a sense of unity across the Muslim community . . . they did not have a bad word for New Zealand, just the reverse - despite everything, they loved the place.
"Despite their trauma and exhaustion they had enormous dignity.''
Earlier, Otago University Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne said when the university scheduled its Give Nothing to Racism week it could have had no idea how poignant and important the week would become.
She said each year she challenged every first year student to be a superhero and call out and challenge racism and discrimination.
"Today I extend that challenge to all of us - students, staff and members of the wider community.
"It is now time for all of us to act like a superhero, and make a collective commitment to give nothing to racism.''