Midwives involved in attempted Hawke's Bay baby uplift slam Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for not watching video

Midwives involved in the documented attempted uplift of a baby in Hawke's Bay have hit out at the Prime Minister for not watching video footage of the incident.

In June, Newsroom released a video investigation showing officials from Oranga Tamariki - the Ministry for Children - at a Hawke's Bay maternity ward attempting to take a young baby away from her family out of concern for the child's safety.

The process used by the officials has received criticism, with the Māori mother being isolated from her midwife and whanāu late at night so Oranga Tamariki could try and take her baby. Oranga Tamariki eventually gave up after hours of standoff and the case is now before the courts.

Despite at least three inquiries into the case and Oranga Tamariki's overall uplift processes being ordered, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newshub Nation on Saturday she hadn't watched the video. 

"The actual footage of the removal, no, but I have seen other incidents like that in the past," she said.

"I've been the spokesperson for children for Labour for a number of years, and this has been an issue that has been debated for a number of years.

"I certainly know the circumstances. I know the case; I know the issues around it, and I know the theme that’s being raised here".

Children's Minister Tracey Martin, who is responsible for Oranga Tamariki, also said at Monday's post-Cabinet press conference that she didn't want to give the video another click, but she understood its content as well as additional context to the case. 

"I'd been made very aware of what the content of the video was, I was also aware there was 36 hours cut down to 45 minutes so I had more background than someone might have seen in the 45 minutes of video," she said.

Midwives involved in attempted Hawke's Bay baby uplift slam Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for not watching video
Photo credit: Newshub Nation / Newsroom/screenshot.

But those involved have now expressed their frustration with Ardern and Martin not viewing the footage, with comparisons made to how Helen Clark didn't meet protesters on the steps to Parliament over the foreshore and seabed debate.

"For neither Jacinda Ardern nor Tracey Martin to have seen the video shows just how detached they are. Families are up in arms… For Māori, this is another foreshore and seabed moment," said the documented mother's midwife Ripeka Ormsby in a Newsroom article on Tuesday

The article includes written statements from Ormsby, Takitimu district Māori Council chairman Des Ratima, Jean Te Huia from Māori Midwives Aotearoa, and the journalist behind the investigation, Melanie Reid. All four were involved intimately in the case.

Te Huia also compared the case to Clark and the foreshore and seabed debacle and slammed Ardern for "refusing to see what it is that has outraged the rest of the country".

"That is not leadership. So many of us had much higher expectations of her".

Questioned on if the same number of inquiries would have occurred if the video hadn't been published, Martin said footage could have been sent to her, the Children's Commissioner or the Ombudsman.

Martin also said on Monday that the family at the centre of the Hawke's Bay case had "lost control" of their story.

"I have got to say to you that I am very, very concerned for the young mum and young dad in the middle of this, that I know, through representatives of theirs, what they want is they want their children back, they want to be a family again, they want a house, and they would like Oranga Tamariki out of their life," she said. 

"They have lost control of their own story at the moment."

Martin said she made that judgement based on conversations with family and iwi representatives, but Te Huia says her call is "unbelievable". 

"The whānau love Melanie Reid, without her they say they wouldn’t even have their baby. The harm that has been done to them has been done by Oranga Tamariki."

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss has previously said the video misrepresented the situation - something those involved have also challenged.

Martin's comments came as the Government celebrated new care standards for Oranga Tamariki which came into effect on Monday.

One outcome so far from discussions between the parties involved in the Hawke's Bay case, like the Children's Minister, Ngāti Kahungunu and the Māori Council is that Oranga Tamariki will now work more closely with the iwi to prevent a baby going into state care. Similar partnerships are also in place with Tainui.

The video has prompted an internal review into the Hawke's Bay case, an inquiry by the Children's Commissioner into the agency's protection of Māori children under three months old, and a more wide-ranging investigation into the uplift process by the Chief Ombudsman.