There can be no substitute for an independent Children's Commissioner.
A competent person focussing solely on what needs to be done, and getting on with the job, beats a faceless board any day in my books.
I have watched the performance of the various Children's Commissioners over the past 20 years and provided support where I can in recent years.
I was impressed with the factual reports, comprehensive reviews and extensive recommendations.
The Office of the Children's Commissioner gave me confidence that the rights and protection of children in New Zealand will remain its focus, especially for vulnerable children and not be diluted by other priorities.
I am fearful this is about to change. The Government wants to get rid of the Children's Commissioner that may end up sitting within the Education Review Office.
The exact details of what the new entity will look like, and who the board reports to, have yet to be finalised. But without a designated commissioner, I believe the vital rigorous monitoring work will no longer occur. The bill has only had its first reading in the house so things could yet change.
The commissioner has been independent of any fettering or interference from government and agencies for the past 32 years.
I believe it is held in high regard by those who work to ensure children's well-being in New Zealand.
I do not see the need for what the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People's Commission Bill proposes.
The office would no longer be a standalone entity and will lose its investigative powers.
In recent years, the sorry and dismal state of children in state care in New Zealand has made headlines.
The care standards and practices of Oranga Tamariki, the government agency dedicated to supporting any child whose wellbeing is at significant risk of harm, now or in the future, have been under the spotlight.
More than half of the complaints to the Commissioner are about Oranga Tamariki. No doubt the Government continues to be embarrassed by this.
Five significant reports produced over the past five years recommended sweeping changes to the organisation. But progress is not happening fast enough.
The Commissioner's Report, one of the five, received widespread support. Its findings said what needed to be said without fear and it wasn't diluted to suit or curry favour with the Government.
The role of the Children's Commissioner is a full-time job.
I would hate to see a board of part-time members, who from experience, I know invariably have trouble all getting together on a regular basis, advocating for and recommending changes, if they do not have input into evaluating and monitoring services.
And you can't delegate the committed commissioner leadership I have seen, and believe very necessary for the job, to a board or panel of advisors.
This is the visible leadership that is prepared to tackle protective care of New Zealand's children especially those who come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki.
It is this conspicuous leadership that is fighting against the status quo.
In my role as chairwoman of the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, I have worked with the Children's Commissioner in the past.
We both undertook independent reviews of Oranga Tamariki.
The agency in particular covered the experiences and treatment of children and their families in their dealings with Oranga Tamariki.
Without exception, it was heartbreaking and dreadful for the families.
Today, I am still available to assist the commissioner's work if needed because of the trust I have for the office and the person who holds that role.
The last commissioner did not stand still.
Judge Andrew Becroft appeared to scan the horizon to make certain he was connecting to all stakeholders and not just a few.
I tend to think of all New Zealanders as stakeholders in the work of the Office of the Children's Commissioner.
We want to see transparency, open discussions and meaningful participation when it comes to the future of New Zealand.
Our children are this future. The commissioner's reports can effect institutional changes that will make the Government and its agency leaders more responsible with clear standards of accountability, obligations and protections.
At this very moment, there is the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care taking place.
It is looking at what happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults while in the care of the state or faith-based institutions, mainly between the years 1950 and 1999.
The stories we are hearing are an indictment of a society that purported to care but in reality, didn't care enough.
The hearings make for harrowing listening.
We know now what can happen when the state uses its power, authority and influence to harm rather than support those who needed their advocacy the most.
The commissioner's work does not provide a quick fix. But, in my view, to replace it with a board is a backward step.