National | Auckland

Whāngai not considered 'parenting agreement', mother turned back from Auckland border

A woman who has a whāngai arrangement with her brother to care for her son was turned back from the Auckland border after being asked to provide verification of parental arrangement.

And the government department that sets the rules has refused to respond to a Te Ao Māori News question about why it hasn't heard of whangai.

Two years ago, Debbie Diamond sent her son Alex to live with his uncle Tere in Taranaki so that he could be immersed in Te Reo me ōna tikanga. She's disheartened that Te Reo Māori wasn’t afforded to her as a child and believed that; to whāngai her son to her reo-speaking brother was a great choice.

“The best place to learn te reo is in Taranaki. He goes to kura down there, and I go and get him in the holidays.”

Whāngai is a traditional cultural practice whereby whānau members care for the child of another whānau member, a cultural practice observed by Māori for generations. However, the practice isn’t listed as a "parental arrangement: on the Covid 19 website as a reason to travel through alert levels

Diamond says this was the reason she was denied passage. “It's not a government shared custody, it is a whāngai situation,” she said

The last time she saw her son was in July and, as with many others in similar situations it took its toll on the emotional well being of their whānau.

Confusing rules

“For the first four weeks it was fine, but with the sixth and seven weeks things were getting stressful. I was feeling really mamae for my boy, and he was getting really sad as well,” she said.

She says the testing requirements are confusing. The Covid 19 website advises that for shared parenting travel beyond alert levels, a negative Covid-19 test within seven days is required. She says that her test was within 72 hours but was later advised it had to be within 24 hours - and was turned back. Frustrated by the inconsistency, the officials advised her to go get another test and come back the next day.

“ I said but who is to know that I will get the test back tomorrow. It may not come back for 48 hours,” she said.

When asked today if he thought whāngai should be included in reasons to allow people to travel under shared custody through the border, Covid 19 Minister Chris Hipkins said "potentially" but added he would have “to go away and have a look at” it.

Te Ao Māori News also asked the Covid 19 group that sits within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for a response - to no avail. The Covid 19 group is the entity that is responsible for the integration of strategy and policy.