Pākehā lack 'cultural competency' to lead Oranga Tamariki, which needs 'by Māori, for Māori' overhaul - Whānau Ora chair

Pākehā have had their turn trying to look after New Zealand's vulnerable, the chair of Whānau Ora says, and should cede responsibility to Māori following the resignation of embattled Oranga Tamariki CEO Gráinne Moss.

Moss stood down from the role last Friday, following months of intense scrutiny brought on by coverage of uplifts of Māori babies, who are five times more likely to be taken into state care than babies of other ethnicities.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency Chair, says Moss' decision to quit was a fait accompli - and she wants it to be the catalyst for Māori leadership of an organisation in which seven of every 10 children are Māori.

"It's a big organisation, but Pākehā don't have the cultural competency, they don't have the networks. I honestly don't believe they have the long-term interest in the safety of the children," Raukawa-Tait told The AM Show on Monday morning.

"This is our time to step up and do what we have to do. We would've done that long ago given the opportunity, but it's always been the Government - and particularly Pākehā - saying 'we know what's best for you'. We're saying, right now, 'hands off our tamariki - no more'.

"It really is about the solutions by Māori, for Māori, with Māori as soon as possible."

A Children's Commissioner report in November found Oranga Tamariki was beyond salvaging, and should be rebuilt to ensure better outcomes for Māori. It also recommended the authority of the organisation be handed over to Māori.

Sir Wira Gardiner, a founding director of the Waitangi Tribunal, will be appointed as acting chief executive of Oranga Tamariki once Moss leaves the job next month.

But even with a Māori leader at the helm, Raukawa-Tait says Māori families no longer trust or want to work with the Government agency, and says it will never be able to make a difference to families in the same way a 'by Māori, for Māori' agency could.

"What we're saying now is 'you've had your day, now it's our turn'. We expect to be resourced to actually do the job, and we'll do it well."

Raukawa-Tait, whose Whānau Ora agency aims to provide a whānau-centred approach to wellbeing, echoes calls from other Māori leaders for Oranga Tamariki to be scrapped.

"All the recent reports over a number of years have indicated that the organisation is no longer fit for purpose. What Māori are saying is that 'we don't want them in our lives any more'.

"They've cocked it up for Māori significantly over many decades and those days have gone. We're more than capable of doing the job, and that's what we want to do."

Whānau Ora, which has dozens of providers throughout the country, are doing much of the work within Oranga Tamariki's remit already, she says - and are committed to keeping families together.

"They're with the communities and know the communities. More importantly, they're there to say 'we'll support you' no matter what's going down right now, no matter how difficult it is," she told host Duncan Garner.

"We will support you. We won't kick you to the curb, we'll keep you with your children, we'll get your whānau involved and work out a plan to make sure you can reach your potential with your children. We don't want to have this continuing separation of children from their whānau."

Raukawa-Tait says the message that Māori parents aren't capable of looking after their children has been absorbed by many New Zealanders, resulting in the uplifts of Māori babies that have caused so much outrage in recent months.

"We know that Māori parents are no different from anybody else, given the right resources and support," she said.

"Sometimes they do live in dire situations, and poverty is a big factor, but when people say we're going to uplift your children, they never come back - and that's the pipeline to the Corrections system.

"We know we have to do better in some areas, but you do better with the support of your family - those that have a vested interest in those tamariki. This is our time."

Gráinne Moss will finish up as Oranga Tamariki chief executive on February 28, before taking up the position of chief executive of pay equity for the Public Service Commission on April 12.

A recruitment process for her permanent replacement will begin in due course.