Latest Oranga Tamariki report further proof it needs to be torn down - Māori health leaders

Māori health leaders say Wednesday's scathing Ombudsman's report into Oranga Tamariki is further proof the troubled agency needs to be torn down.  

Lady Tureiti Moxon wants to see child protection and care completely devolved to local organisations and the Prime Minister has said he's open to devolution.  

"It absolutely has to change and it has to be dismantled and they need to start again," Lady Tureiti said.   

Ombudsman Peter Boshier is also calling for wholesale change.  

"It grieves me to do this report because how many reports have been done over the years about Oranga Tamariki?"   

There's been many recent reviews with a litany of failures laid bare and yet the state continues to fail New Zealand's most vulnerable children.  

"We've had a series of reports and the real challenge is to have the staff to be supported, and to have the resources in place and the training in place to make sure they follow through on those reports - rather than just having a series of reports," said Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.   

Asked if the scale of change at Oranga Tamariki is adequate, deputy chief executive Nicolette Dickson called it "transformational" and "significant".   

But Lady Tureiti said: "Dismantle it and allow Māori to do what we know best, which is to look after our own." 

Lady Tureiti.
Lady Tureiti. Photo credit: Newshub.

Last year, 53,000 children and young people came to Oranga Tamariki's attention and 68 percent of those were Māori. That's almost 700 Māori children a week.  

"It's time. It's time to change it and it should be devolved - devolved out into the community," said Lady Tureiti. 

Luxon said the Government has been very supportive of devolution.   

"We believe in something called 'localisation' and devolution. As you know many iwi do as well. But Oranga Tamariki has some serious problems." 

Dickson said: "The real work is how we can support communities and how we can wrap around and provide the support families need earlier. So that's the change journey we're on."  

Lady Tureiti is also deeply concerned about the Coalition's promise to scrap a part of New Zealand's child protection laws called Section 7AA.   

That law compels the state to prioritise a child's whakapapa when deciding who should care for them. Its repeal is the subject of an urgent Waitangi Tribunal claim.  

"It's a Te Tiriti o Waitangi clause and it is about whānau and ensuring the CE of Oranga Tamariki makes sure whānau is involved with what's going on with a child, now what's wrong with that?"  

Minister for Children Karen Chhour said it isn't about removing Māori rights.   

"It doesn't mean removing the whakapapa and knowledge of our young people, it means... the opposite. It means I want to go back to the core focus of Oranga Tamariki which is the protection of all our young people."