'Bulldozer' Kelvin Davis backed by 'submarine' Matthew Tukaki to reform Oranga Tamariki

The chair of the group which recommended a total overhaul of Oranga Tamariki has brushed off criticism that no amount of reform can fix the under-fire agency. 

This week the Government said it would accept all the recommendations made by the group, including decentralising decision-making to communities and making uplifts an absolute last resort.

Oranga Tamariki's problems have been well-documented over the past couple of years, such as its apparently racially biased targeting of Māori and Pasifika children for uplifts.

The biggest change is arguably the move to decentralise much of the ministry's decision-making and funding to local communities. But some prominent Māori voices - such as National Urban Māori Authority chair Lady Tūreiti Moxon - have said it should be scrapped altogether.

Appearing on Newshub Nation on Saturday, group chair Matthew Tukaki said the reforms actually go further than any previous report has suggested, by devolving responsibility and decision-making away from Wellington to local organisations on the ground.

"If that is not mana motuhake (self-rule and/or self-determination), if that is not us going a lot further than every other report in town has ever done, then I get the criticism - but actually we are going substantially further."

He said abolishing Oranga Tamariki altogether wasn't an option.

"If you just shut something down, then the question becomes what do we do with the 5400-plus children already in state care? You can't make those decisions without impacting the lives of those young people."

A key difference between this report and the several done on Oranga Tamariki and its predecessors in the past, is this time the board which made the recommendations will stay around to oversee their implementation, Tukaki told Newshub Nation.

"We have teeth and we have power… What we need to do is we need to focus on what we can do now, not waiting two, three, six, seven, eight years down the track. This is why I'm really emboldened… We are not going anywhere. We will be monitoring the implementation of those recommendations.

"And by the way, I've never seen a minister so blunt and so bold as Kelvin Davis."

Davis earlier this week said he would be the "bulldozer" which ensures things get done.

"If minister Davis is a bulldozer then [fellow board member] Dame Naida Glavish is a warship and I'm coming up behind him with a submarine. We have a firm commitment to our whanau right across the system."

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