Politics | Oranga Tamariki

Minister firm on Oranga Tamariki amendment bill

Minister for Children, Karen Chhour continues to back her decision to introduce the bill to repeal section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act, which requires the organisation to take into account the Treaty of Waitangi.

But she plans to continue devolving resources to iwi to help with their children.

“We are devolving back to the community in some areas and that’s fantastic because I don’t want to see kids in care but, if the ultimate decision is that a young person goes into care, then I won’t apologise for keeping children safe,” Chhour says.

Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act was introduced in 2017 by the previous National government. The aim was to prioritise placing Māori children within their extended family or iwi when they need care and protection.

However, Chhour says the legislation has created conflict between protecting the best interests of the child and race-based factors enshrined in 7AA.

“Sometimes young people are being placed back into homes that are unsafe because that legislation has been misinterpreted.

“Whānau first at all costs is what is happening in a lot of situations and now young people don’t deserve that. They deserve to have social workers and caregivers who are capable of making that decision without worrying if that’s the wrong decision.”

She affirms that her own experience of being in state care influenced her decision to introduce the Oranga Tamaiki amendment bill in July 2023.

“I was one of those Maori kids dealing with Child, Youth and Family back in the day.

“I know what it’s like when the system fails you. The system failed me because it didn’t meet my needs, not because I was Maori.”