Chief Ombudsman inquiry into Oranga Tamariki third investigation into child uplifts

By Talisa Kupenga

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier announced his own independent investigation into the process of removing newborn babies by Oranga Tamariki, making it one of three investigations now underway.

It follows the attempted uplift of a week-old baby by the agency in Hawkes Bay last month which Boshier says has raised justifiable concern.

"Some people have called for a royal commission, others have said that what's happening isn't truly independent. We are truly independent. So we've decided that with the broad powers and function that we've got we're the right people to take into account what others are doing but have a broader reach ourselves."

Boshier says he made the decision to launch his own investigation in the past 48-hours. It comes on the heels of Sunday's meeting between The Minister for Children Tracey Martin and fellow Ministers' with Ngati Kahungunu, the family liaisons on behalf of the family at the centre of the Hawkes Bay uplift.

"My intention is to look at how a decision is made by looking at the beginning to the end but not just on the Hasting's case. What we've got to do is reassure the public that a decision is made and implemented in a way which is principled, fair and protective," Boshier says.

“I'll talk to who I want to in the course of this and require they talk to me and I'm the only one, quite frankly who's got the ability to require that."

Minister Martin says "[the Hawkes Bay case] was a terrible incident that nobody came out well out of but I'm really pleased we've got the Ombudsman coming out today."

It has been reported the family at the centre of last month's attempted uplift wanted an independent inquiry, but this did not eventuate from meeting between their Ngati Kahungunu liaisons and Minister Martin at the weekend.

When asked whether the family was dissatisfied with what was agreed upon at that meeting Minister Martin redirected questions to iwi.

"I am asking you to direct those questions to the board of Ngāti Kahungunu. They are the people who are having a liaison relationship with the family. I am not having a direct liaison relationship with the family."

Oranga Tamariki it internally investigating the Hawkes Bay case and the Children's Commissioner is independently investigating uplifts of Māori babies under three-months-old.

Boshier says “If the process of a child coming into care needs to be looked at and reconfigured lets do it. I’d like to feel we are modern and looking ahead and if things in the past haven’t been culturally sensitive and appropriate lets change them.”

From July 1 the Ombudsman will have greater oversight over Oranga Tamariki which will include reviewing complaints and conducting investigations.

Boshier says Māori families can take away from his announcement the "confidence that we will give this a very objective, sensitive, proper, investigation."

The investigation is expected to be complete at the end of the year.