Chief children’s commissioner Dr Claire Achmad says she hasn’t been consulted on the coalition government’s moves to remove section 7AA from the Oranga Tamariki Act yet, which ensures a commitment to Treaty of Waitangi obligations and prioritising the whakapapa of children in its care.
The law was introduced to address the over-representation of Māori children in state care, where 68% of state-care children are Māori.
It’s one of the latest moves made by the new National/Act/NZ First government.
What comes next will be a long parliamentary process, which Achmad says she is looking forward to to better understand why the reforms are being done.
“I also welcome a chance to sit and meet with our new Minister for Cildren [Karen Chhour]. I’m keen to build my understanding as to where she’s coming from, and as to where this new government is coming from, in relation to this proposal.”
The legislation requires Oranga Tamariki to implement the Treaty of Waitangi, lessen the inequalities that Māori children face, form relationships with iwi, and give a child’s whakapapa priority when determining who should care for them.
The legislation was also introduced by the last National government, “in recognition that mokopuna Māori are disproportionately impacted within our state care and protection system.
“This is about their [the children’s] equitable outcomes and rights as tangata whenua, as mokopuna Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and as children under the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child.
“[Section 7aa] makes clear the right of mokopuna Māori be connected with and know their whakapapa. That means wherever they can be safe being in the care of their whānau, hapū and iwi.
“I would be concerned to see a backwards step from that.”