Oranga Tamariki backpedals on closure of Christchurch youth home

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Oranga Tamariki has pulled back on its decision to close down a Christchurch care and protection home for youth where video footage showed staff abusing one of the residents.

The child welfare agency also claimed internal reviews of the home found no ‘widespread culture of abuse’.

In July, Newsroom* video from a whistleblower showed workers tackling a boy and twisting his arms behind his back, and in another incident putting him in a headlock before throwing him to the ground.

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Sir Wira Gardiner ordered a police and internal investigation and closed down the facility soon after.

But the closure has been withdrawn by the current acting CEO, Chappie Te Kani, who says a new model of care is being developed “which tamariki, rangatahi, their whānau and the wider community can trust."

Te Kani says Sir Wira Gardiner’s decision to close the Christchurch facility was made in the context of the information available at that time. But internal reviews did not “support the view that the tamariki and rangatahi at Te Oranga are unsafe, or that there is a widespread culture of abuse."

Mr Te Kani maintained the facility is still not the right one for tamariki and Oranga Tamariki is looking at ways to transition them out of current care and protection residences and into a proposed new model of care.