Politics | Oranga Tamariki

A nod or not? Oranga Tamariki boss denies admitting that cuts would hurt frontline

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani Photo / Supplied / Oranga Tamariki

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani appeared to admit his restructuring of the child protection ministry could hamper its front line work, during questioning at Parliament.

Te Kani and Children’s Minister Karen Chhour later denied he’d made such a concession, although he did say the morale of staff had taken a hit due to the restructuring programme.

At the centre of his alleged admission was whether or not Te Kani nodded in agreement with Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime, as she questioned how his proposal to cull more than 600 roles would not impact the care of children.

Government departments were asked to cut “back office” costs ahead of Budget 2024, but Finance Minister Nicola Willis said ministers should ensure those cuts did not hamper “front line” services.

For months, Oranga Tamariki sources and external organisations that work with the ministry have been raising alarm about the scale of the cutbacks at that ministry.

In particular, the proposal to significantly reduce its legal team - who work across the country responding to urgent issues - and staff investigating child exploitation, have drawn concern.

Te Kani said he would confirm the finalised restructure next week.

On Wednesday, he said some changes had been made since the proposal went for consultation - and fewer lawyers would lose their jobs.

Who said what

Prime asked Te Kani if he was “confident” the restructure would not impact its care of children. “Are you putting more work on the frontline, who are already under-resourced?” she asked.

He replied, “I’ve been very transparent in my advice to the government that the work we are doing will have an impact in some shape or form. To minimise the impact, this is where I drew the line.”

She asked for clarity if that “impact” would be “a negative impact”, and then told the committee that Te Kani nodded in agreement with her. Te Kani denied nodding in agreement

Te Kani told reporters it was clear there would be “impacts” but he denied nodding in agreement those would be “negative”.

“The answer is still the same... we’re going through these changes, there’ll be an impact. Our people will feel it,” he said.

Chhour said the impact would be emotional. She said the restructure would make the ministry more efficient.

- Stuff