Sir Wira Gardiner, the acting chief executive of the embattled child welfare ministry, Oranga Tamariki, who is in his late seventies, has taken a leave of absence for "health reasons".
Chappie Te Kani, Oranga Tamariki’s acting deputy chief executive for governance and engagement has taken over as acting chief executive.
Gardiner served in the Defence Force, including in Vietnam and retired as a lieutenant colonel. He was the founding director of the Waitangi Tribunal and the founding chief executive of the Ministry of Māori Development (Te Puni Kokiri)
Known as a "go-to" man for his interventions in several organisations, he was handpicked by the government on March 1 to reform Oranga Tanariki after a series of scandals involving the uplift of Māori babies and mistreatment of children in state care.
Te Kani says Gardiner’s whanau have requested privacy.
“I advised all Oranga Tamariki staff, and I know that they join me in wishing Sir Wira and his whānau well," he said.