New Zealand's four-time women's squash world champion, Dame Susan Devoy, was appointed as her country's race relations commissioner in 2013.

She is in office at a time of rising tensions among New Zealand's diverse communities. 

Last December, New Zealand passed anti-terrorism measures that caused particular anxiety among its Muslim population.

So is New Zealand's social landscape on the brink of a permanent alteration? 

Al Jazeera: What are the social challenges New Zealand is facing relating to race and faith communities?

Dame Susan Devoy: The face of New Zealand is younger and more ethnically diverse than ever before. One-in-10 Kiwis are Asian Kiwis. One-in-four Aucklanders are Asian Aucklanders. Maori and Pacific Kiwis are a young, fast growing population.  

The bottom line is about all of us building a future where New Zealand children know they are valued and not just tolerated.
We are at a crossroads when it comes to race relations, ethnic diversity and national identity

Dame susan Devoy, New Zealand race relations commissioner

Last year’s census for the first time recorded that more than one million people living in New Zealand were born overseas, 300,000 more than in the 2001 census. 

Al Jazeera: In the past there have been attacks on mosques and a recent report was made to police after the harrassment of a Jewish child. How is this being addressed?

Dame Susan Devoy: Muslim Kiwis and Jewish Kiwis have told us they are feeling under pressure because of ongoing conflicts taking place thousands of miles away from us here in New Zealand. 

Leaders from both communities have publicly and unreservedly rejected violent extremism, and are vocal advocates for peace, justice and human rights. 

If New Zealanders want peace overseas then we need to start right here at home, because human rights begin at home, with everyday people. 

The streets of our towns and suburbs are where race relations will thrive or die: it’s really up to us. 

While we mourn the tragic loss of lives overseas, I believe we must honour their lives by standing up for peace and human rights at all costs. 

While our incidents are far fewer than what’s happened in other countries, they have still happened.

Al Jazeera: What solutions to current tensions is your office looking into?

Dame Susan Devoy: There is no panacea when it comes to race relations. Every country has its own issues to address, its own past to reconcile, it’s own future to guarantee. 

The bottom line is about all of us building a future where New Zealand children know they are valued and not just tolerated.

We are at a crossroads when it comes to race relations, ethnic diversity and national identity and we all need to play a role in the conversation over where New Zealand is heading. 

Now is the time to talk about and plan for the kind of country we want our children and grandchildren growing up in.  

When we bring the violence and hatred we see on our television screens into our suburbs, when we scream hate at a woman in a veil and her children, or a boy in a yarmulke: we are the ones creating the terror

Dame Susan Devoy, New Zealand race relations commissioner 

We're pretty good at learning from and resolving past mistakes in New Zealand – planning for our future is something we need to get better at. 

We can't just rely on our Kiwi saying "She'll Be Right" and hope for the best. If we don't plan for our future and our children's future now – chances are, she won’t be "Right".

Al Jazeera: Is institutionalised racism a problem in New Zealand today?

Dame Susan Devoy: Every year our team at the Human Rights Commission fields thousands of complaints from people all over the country.

Approximately a third of all complaints and enquiries are about racial discrimination. Nine out of 10 complaints are resolved by our team of mediators.

We still have a lot of work to do when it comes to treating each other with respect. In terms of institutional culture we have some unique strategies in place, one is a partnership between New Zealand police and Maori New Zealanders. 

"Turning The Tide" aims to turn around statistics that see Maori make up more than 40 percent of all police apprehensions, 50 percent of the prison population: even though Maori New Zealanders make up only 15 percent of the population.  

Our police commissioner was a keynote speaker at our annual Diversity Forum and told us that 'empathy' and 'valuing diversity' had been added to the key police values. 

Reducing the number of apprehensions of Maori was another target officers were working towards.

Al Jazeera: What is your message to New Zealand's faith communities at this moment of tension?

Dame Susan Devoy: Our message to Kiwis is to stand up for Muslim and Jewish Kiwis or anyone they see being victimised. 

Don't be a bystander, be brave and make sure the victims know they are not alone and the perpetrators know they will not be tolerated. 

When we bring the violence and hatred we see on our television screens into our suburbs, when we scream hate at a woman in a veil and her children, or a boy in a yarmulke: we are the ones creating the terror.