Backlash as top Māori at Oranga Tamariki departs

By Tumamao Harawira

When Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss, yesterday revealed her deputy chief executive, Hoani Lambert, was leaving for greener pastures at the Department of Internal Affairs, an immediate backlash washed over her.

Moss had announced her top Māori executive was going to leave after four years in the job. years.

"We have a wonderful acting replacement for him in Darrin Haimona, who has got excellent partnership relationships and a very deep knowledge of reo and tikanga,” she said.

And Lambert was quick to say, “Just to be clear, so people understand why I'm going to the Department of Internal Affairs. It's not because of any concerns in my work with Oranga Tamariki. Rather, it’s more about seeing further opportunity in the public sector.”

The shock exit comes in the wake of Moss' admission that the department is plagued with structural racism: “There is a structural racism problem in all of our institutions, all of our institutions have a racism problem.”

Lambert agreed, saying, “If you were to look at the way the organisation traditionally has granted permanency orders to people who are not whānau of Māori children. That has a detrimental effect on Māori.”

Lambert made special mention of the lack of Māori women in the organisation, and also throughout the wider government, saying “I think it’s a big loss.”

But Dame Tariana Turia has come out and targeted Moss, for what she perceives as a lack of understanding on Moss’ part as to the gravity of her situation, saying, “The mere fact that Hoani Lambert is leaving. He is her top Māori person in the agency and he is gone today.”