Ministers differ on changes to Oranga Tamariki bill

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Children's Minister Kelvin Davis has dismissed criticism of a bill that aims to get rid of the Children's Commissioner as just "noise" but Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says she may accept some changes to the bill.

The Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People's Commission Bill, which Sepuloni is sponsoring, has sparked a petition by Save the Children to keep the Commissioner. The National Urban Māori Authority has also slammed the proposed new structure, a commission inside a government department, as doing nothing for Māori.

Last night on Te Ao Mārama, Davis and Sepuloni were asked for interviews but instead gave statements. Davis' statement said when he announced changes last year to Oranga Tamariki he was clear that a radical shift in the child protection system was needed. "That is why I accepted every single recommendation of the Ministerial Advisory Board. Ultimately, these changes won't happen overnight."

But Sepuloni's statement said she was "open to making changes where there is strong evidence to do so. We have built in a five-year review period to ensure we get this right."

National Urban Māori Authority chair Lady Tureiti Moxon made a submission on the bill yesterday, demanding changes be made to Oranga Tamariki, as she believes there are still structural issues that are leading to the severing of family ties, and babies being taken from their parents by Oranga Tamariki.

On Te Ao Mārama, Lady Moxon said, "The overarching thing about this act should be to reconnect tamariki Māori who have been removed from their whānau with their whakapapa and their birthright.

"We've got to do something different and, honestly, if we don't, we're just doomed to repeat past mistakes."

Lady Moxon's views were joined toDame Tariana Turia, Dame Iritana Tāwhiwhiranga, Dame Areta Koopu and Merepeka Raukawa-Tait who challenged the bill in their collective submission.