Kelvin Davis refuses to say he has confidence in Oranga Tamariki boss Grainne Moss

New Children's Minister Kelvin Davis has declined to say he has confidence in Oranga Tamariki boss Grainne Moss. 

There have been repeated calls for Moss to step down from the role, over the agency's perceived failings when it comes to Māori children. 

Dame Tariana Turia, former Māori Party c0-leader, as early as June last year called for Moss' head. Reviews into Oranga Tamariki since then have only intensified the calls. 

The Māori Party called for the entire agency to be scrapped, or at least stripped of its responsibility for Māori, which make up about two-thirds of the 5000 children in its care.

"Without a doubt, there are issues with the way New Zealand treats its children," Davis told Newshub Nation on Saturday, revealing he personally asked for the portfolio, previously held by New Zealand First's Tracey Martin.

"People were quite surprised by that. For me, it's about being able to focus on an issue that really affects Māoridom. There was some 81,000 calls of concern around children last year, 58,000 individual children - that's over 1000 children a week on average... something needs to be done about that. Nothing is off the table."

Asked if he had confidence in Moss, Davis deflected.

"I'll be having a conversation with the State Services Commissioner over the next week or so in regards to the leadership of Oranga Tamariki... I will be meeting with the leadership of Oranga Tamariki over the course of the next two weeks as well."

He dismissed the Māori Party's call for an entirely separate agency for Māori children, saying progress could be made within the existing structures.

"I don't want a separate agency, but I do think that we need to go further - Māori have a number of the solutions."

"But if we're going to move further in that direction, we have to do it properly, we have to do it right. There's some 6000 children in state care at the moment - if I was to put them on a fleet of buses now and deliver them off to their various hapu and iwi tomorrow, would those iwi and hapu at this stage be able to cater for their needs? I doubt it very much... we have to take our time to make sure that we get it right. But there will be changes."

Davis and Moss.
Davis and Moss. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Māori babies are five times more likely to end up in state care than non-Māori. Most non-Māori taken into care are Pasifika, with few Pākehā, figures released by the Children's Commissioner earlier this year showed.

Davis wouldn't be drawn on a target for the number of Māori children in state care by the end of this term. 

"Obviously the target that we all want is zero... probably not realistic. Idealistically that's what we'd love to see... But we certainly want to reduce those numbers."