Politics | Oranga Tamariki

Proposed repeal of OTA section designed to improve Māori children outcomes breaches treaty - Tribunal

The Waitangi Tribunal’s urgent inquiry into the proposed repeal of section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act - designed to improve the outcomes for Māori children in state care - has found clear breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The government is planning to repeal Treaty obligations from the Oranga Tamariki Act.

However, a Waitangi Tribunal report said it would cause harm to vulnerable children.

The law change was part of the ACT Party’s coalition deal with National.

The tribunal said there were clear breaches of the guarantee to Māori of self determination and the Treaty principles of partnership and active protection.

It also found that prejudice would arise from the rushed and arbitrary repeal of the section of the Act.

When issuing its interim report last month, the tribunal said a key policy objective of section 7AA was to reduce the disproportionate number of Māori entering into care and to improve outcomes for those tamariki already in care.

It also said, under section 7AA, iwi or Māori organisations may enter into strategic partnerships with the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki, and noted there are 10 strategic partnership agreements under the section currently in place, as well as nine relationships with post-settlement governance entities, some of whom are also strategic partners.

Minister for Children Karen Chhour said, in a statement, that the repeal of 7AA “has no effect on the need for Oranga Tamariki to keep children in state care safe”.

“The repeal of section 7AA does not prevent the consideration of the cultural wellbeing of children in state care, and existing partnerships between Oranga Tamariki and iwi and Māori organisations will continue.”

Some had raised concern with her that 7AA “has led Oranga Tamariki to focus more on a child’s cultural needs rather than their immediate safety, stability, and wellbeing”, Chhour said.

“Section 7AA was a measure introduced to address Treaty obligations. My concern is that it has taken the focus away from the best interests of the child.”

Original report by RNZ, with additional reporting by Te Ao Māori News.