Dame Tariana Turia calls for Oranga Tamariki CEO Grainne Moss to resign

Dame Tariana Turia has called for the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki to resign.  

An alarming video released by Newsroom this week shows officials pressuring a young Māori mother to hand over her week-old baby to the state.

Grainne Moss, head of the child welfare agency, called the 40-minute report a "very significant misrepresentation" of the woman's situation.

Now the former leader of the Māori Party says Moss should resign over her response to the "utterly abhorrent" video.

"I'm very disappointed in Grainne Moss, that she would minimise it in the way that she has," Dame Tariana told Magic Talk's Ryan Bridge on Thursday.

"The video is appalling, whether it's two minutes, ten minutes, whatever. It's an appalling video and I've had lots of people call me and tell me how disgusted they are with Oranga Tamariki, and there is a movement going on within Māoridom that something will be done about it.

"And it may mean that Grainne may have to consider resigning."

When asked if she supports that outcome, Dame Tariana was firm.

"I think she should resign."

While she's confident in the Minister for Children, she has less faith in Oranga Tamariki's leadership.

"I absolutely trust Tracey Martin, I think she is an excellent Minister. Whether we can trust Grainne Moss to do what is right, after all here in Whanganui we had to experience her allowing her department to put one of our mokopuna on TradeMe.

"Their practices clearly need examining, and all the excuses in the world are not going to get them off this."

Moss was reluctant to discuss the details of the case during an appearance on The AM Show on Thursday, citing privacy. However she defended the decision to try to take the newborn into state care.

"We bring [children] into care with the approval of the courts after we've provided evidence that actually, this may be the only way to keep that child safe."

Newsroom reports that on average, three Māori children are taken into care every week and that number is rising, while the rate of uplift for non-Māori has stayed static.

Dame Tariana calls this "overkill", and disputes Te Puni Kōkiri (the Ministry of Māori Development)'s statistics that Māori children are six times more likely to die from abuse and neglect than non-Māori.

"The stats aren't telling us that," she says. "In the last few years since 1993, we have had 83 non-Māori children killed, we have had 17 Māori children die, so the fact of it is this is an overkill when it comes to Māori families. Now if you don't want to call it racism, you can call it what you like."

She says "far too many" children are being killed in their homes, but Oranga Tamariki are "completely over the top" in how they respond.

"I think these are whakapapa issues, they should know how to work with whanau, hapu and iwi, they should be calling them together if they are concerned about children."

When there are concerns for a child's wellbeing, she says the extended family should be brought together to take responsibility for them.

"All my life I have looked after other families' children and I take it as an absolute privilege to be able to do that. I think we have to restore to ourselves the right and responsibility to take back control over our lives and the lives of our children.

"Taking children, ripping children away from the essence of who they are is not the answer. And I don't care what Oranga Tamariki or whatever they want to call themselves say. The fact is it is not good practice to remove children from their whakapapa."