Oranga Tamariki returned Flaxmere boy to immediate family despite being previously injured

Oranga Tamariki has been accused of returning a severely injured four-year-old boy to the Flaxmere home in which he was badly injured on a previous occasion.

According to an investigation by Newsroom, Oranga Tamariki returned the boy to the household without consulting his wider whānau.

Following an incident in June 2019, the child was removed from his immediate family and hospitalised in Wellington. His Auckland-based grandmother was appointed as his caregiver.

Shortly before Christmas, the boy was taken back to his immediate family in Flaxmere. Roughly a month later, the four-year-old was severely injured again and remains in Starship Children's Hospital in a serious condition.

The child's grandfather Dion Te Ahu told Newsroom that police revealed to him last week that the investigation into the original incident is still open. Oranga Tamariki allegedly told the family that the investigation had been closed.

"The police recommended that while the investigation is still open, they shouldn't have returned [the child] under any means," he told the outlet. 

Following the June incident, the child received surgery in Wellington Hospital for head injuries that resembled those sustained "in a head-on car crash". 

According to the outlet, it's believed the family claimed the boy was injured in an accident and the police did not have sufficient evidence to lay charges.

Te Ahu said he and other family members have helped with the investigation and have cooperated by providing photos, videos and other evidence to the police.

The grandfather made the decision to speak up to show that the boy's wider whānau is not complicit in covering up the child's injuries or protecting a family member.

"I want justice just as much... I'm his grandfather. I want the right person to come forward," Te Ahu told Newsroom.

The whānau claims the immediate family picked the boy up from Auckland and took him back to Hastings, unbeknownst to the whānau who supported his recovery. They say they would have stopped him from returning if they knew.

Six weeks later, the boy was flown to Starship after police were called to the Flaxmere property on January 29.

The wider whānau claims Oranga Tamariki has repeatedly invited the immediate family to visit the child.

Hastings Kaumatua Des Ratima told Newsroom that Oranga Tamariki may have "lumped total responsibility on this family" by remaining silent, urging the department "to be accountable for... their part in this tragedy".

In a statement to Newsroom, Oranga Tamariki said it's unable to comment further due to the active police investigation but described the boy's injuries as "heartbreaking".