By Aden Miles Morunga, Local Democracy Reporter
Waikato Tainui has secured $32.1 million from Oranga Tamariki to assist in a successful iwi-led support programme to help empower children and whānau in need.
The funding will be distributed over the next five years for the Mokopuna Ora programme, an initiative in which Waikato Tainui supports whānau to prevent mokopuna (grandchildren) going into the care of Oranga Tamariki.
Mokopuna Ora also supports tamariki to be with whakapapa-whānau caregivers.
It also provides wrap-around support for parents to achieve wellness with the intention to reunite tamariki with their parents wherever possible.
Tainui leader Rahui Papa says the agreement with Oranga Tamariki builds on the Mokopuna Ora partnership.
That required the agency to involve the iwi when children of Waikato Tainui descent came to the agency's attention in its region, including south Auckland.
Only four uplifts
"The latest stats I saw there were 173 possible uplifts by Oranga Tamariki in the Family Court. Only four were enacted. That's huge because Tawhiao said 'we will look after our own mokopuna' and this is giving effect to that."
The new agreement will give the iwi more resources to support whānau in the prevention stage and involve iwi working with whānau who come to the notice of the child protection agency with the aim of stopping children from ending up in state care.
Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani says the historic agreement recognises the need to work differently.
"Of course it's been recognised over the inquiries and reviews of Oranga Tamariki the need to work differently, work in a networked, relational way with Māori, with iwi, and what this agreement enables is for us to work in partnership and find those ways of working to provide care for our tamariki."
There are now 4731 children and young people in Oranga Tamariki care, the lowest number since the agency was established five years ago.
Te Kōhao Health managing director Lady Tureiti Moxon congratulated those signing the agreement but also acknowledged the existing pain for Māori dealing with the state care system.
Whānau in the cities
"Alongside that, however, we must consider the large numbers of tamariki/mokopuna and their whānau who live in our cities and do not belong to the local iwi or are disconnected from their own iwi around the country," she said.
"At the Oranga Tamariki Waitangi Tribunal hearing claim (Wai 2915) many Māori providers contracted to Oranga Tamariki found the relationship between them and Oranga Tamariki to be difficult, officious and fraught.
"While we acknowledge that there have been some changes to the Oranga Tamariki leadership, nothing has fundamentally changed to devolve power, control and resources to iwi /Māori."
This announcement refreshes the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Waikato Tainui and Oranga Tamariki signed in 2019.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air