Two Oranga Tamariki staff members removed after allegations of 'inappropriate sexual behaviour' towards children emerge

Multiple investifations are underway after allegations of inappropriate, sexual behaviour surfaced from inside Oranga Tamariki's residences. 

Chief executive Chappie Te Kani said on Wednesday two staff members have been removed in relation to the alleged "inappropriate sexual behaviour".

He said the allegations, which he was informed of in the past week, were "unacceptable and there is no place for it in our organisation or in our communities". 

Te Kani told reporters the alleged behaviour by the two staffers, at this stage, involved about five children.

He said he couldn't identify the facilities where the alleged offending took place, citing concerns for the privacy of the children involved.

It's understood the offending happened within the past year but "we are working out the details and the facts - which will actually be part of the investigations as well", he said.

Two investigations were now underway, one involving the police and the other an internal Oranga Tamariki probe.

After the alleged behaviour was brought to his attention, Te Kani said he brought in former Police Commissioner Mike Bush - who will now take charge of Oranga Tamariki's youth justice and care residences. 

Bush would also lead a "rapid review" of Oranga Tamariki's community-based homes, which Te Kani said he wanted completed within two months.

"My priority is the safety and well-being of the young people involved in these allegations," said Te Kani.

"What we are doing is putting all the support around the whānau and the tamariki."

Chappie Te Kani.
Chappie Te Kani. Photo credit: File

Asked if Oranga Tamariki's residences were safe, Te Kani said it had done "a lot of work since finding out these allegations, understanding what problems we may have and we need to do the work to get the assurance that young people across our residences are safe".

He said he understood the public would have further questions about the allegations but "can I please ask that we allow the investigations to take their course".

"I give my assurance that the outcomes of these, at the appropriate time, will be made public.

"However, I made the decision that I was not prepared to wait for the outcome of any investigation.  Whilst these are currently individual and isolated incidents, one is one too many."

He went on to say he wasn't prepared to compromise tamariki welfare.

"It is non-negotiable that every young person who is taken into Oranga Tamariki care and facilities will be safe at all times. There is no room in this organisation for any young person to be put at risk by the behaviour of staff."

Bush, appearing at a news conference alonside Te Kani, said his team would work to understand whether Oranga Tamariki's facilities were safe and fit-for-purpose.

"These incidents that we've spoken about today are what we know about," he said. "We'll obviously be very open and enourage any other reporting, but these are the only incidents that we're aware of at this point."

Children's Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers said she was "extremely disappointed to learn that - yet again - harm has come to mokopuna in the care of the state".

"I truly hope that the only positive outcome from the highly distressing events of recent days is that guided by the findings of the independent investigation Oranga Tamariki revisits the issues apparent within residences, and take action, with specific timeframes and measurables, to address the problems that have been long apparent," she said in a statement.

"The safety of our mokopuna is paramount. Something has to change to ensure that mokopuna in the care of the state are safe and not further harmed by the system tasked with caring for them."