Applause in Parliament as Karen Chhour condemns personal attacks from Te Pāti Māori about her upbringing

Applause and cheers erupted in the House on Wednesday afternoon as Children's Minister Karen Chhour condemned Te Pāti Māori's insults about her upbringing. 

Chhour, who grew up in state care, is repealing section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act - sparking uproar from political opposition. 

However, criticism of the repeal has moved to personal verbal attacks on the ACT Party MP. 

A comment on social media from Te Pāti Māori said Chhour, a wahine Māori, had a "disconnection and disdain for her... people". 

"If Section 7AA were around in Karen Chhour's time, she would have been raised Māori, she would have been raised being connected to her whakapapa and having a knowingness of her Māoritanga. Instead, she was raised Pākehā with a disconnection and disdain for her... people.  

"Karen and her experience is exactly why we need Section 7AA." 

Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime also verbally attacked Chhour, calling her a "sell-out" during the First reading of the Oranga Tamariki (Repeal of Section 7AA) Amendment Bill on Tuesday. 

In the House on Wednesday, Chhour addressed Te Pāti Māori's comments. 

"I am not going to stand here and justify how I was raised but I am also not going to let anyone else, especially Te Pāti Māori, think that they can tell my story for me. Especially when they have no idea what they're talking about," she said. In response, the House erupted in applause and cheers. 

It's not the first time Chhour's whakapapa has been attacked. Former Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis said in 2022 Chhour needs to leave "her Pākehā world". He later called Chhour to apologise for his comments. 

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, ACT leader David Seymour defended his MP. 

"If these people had a good argument against what Karen's doing, they wouldn't need to have viciously and personally insult her," he said. 

"The fact that they are being so vicious and so nasty - I can't remember anything like this in the 10 years I have been in Parliament - tells me that they don't have much of an argument and Karen is actually on to something and they know it." 

Repealing section 7AA has been a contentious matter and was part of National's coalition agreement with ACT. 

Section 7AA is a practical commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi the Treaty of Waitangi. It requires Oranga Tamariki to form partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations to ensure children in state care continue to have connection to their whakapapa. 

However, Chhour has criticised the section - saying it had led Oranga Tamariki to focus more on a child's cultural needs rather than their immediate safety, stability and wellbeing.   

Under the Act, she claims Māori children were being uplifted from loving homes due to the ethnicity of the carers. 

Te Pāti Māori have been vocal about the repeal, saying it is "enabling another stolen generation" and will "oppress our children". 

It was concerned the repeal would result in Māori children in care losing contact with their culture if passed.  

The Bill passed its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday and will be considered by the Social Services and Community Committee, where the public can submit about the proposal. 

Parliament will then vote another two times on the Bill before it can become law.