Nearly $26 million will be put towards a prevention programme to reduce the number of young Māori in the South Island entering the Oranga Tamariki system.
The programme, Whānau as First Navigators, is being led by Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu (Te Rūnanga) to improve the outcomes of children and families in the Ngāi Tahu tribal area.
Its tribal area is the largest in New Zealand and extends from the White Bluffs (southeast of Blenheim) and Kahurangi Point in the north to Stewart Island in the south.
Minister for Children, Hon Kelvin Davis, today announced Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu would receive $25.9m of Oranga Tamariki funding over three years.
It comes after footage emerged of staff reacting violently to young people in the care and protection residence in Christchurch, Te Oranga.
In July, Acting OT chief executive Sir Wira Gardiner said the facility would be closed as soon as possible.
Oranga Tamariki had been planning to shut down all 10 care and protection residences across the country but after the footage emerged, Gardiner ordered the process to be expedited.
In the last financial year, around 68 per cent of children and youth in Oranga Tamariki care were Māori.
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai said Whānau as First Navigators is both an iwi led response to family wellbeing in the South Island and an example of what a modern Treaty of Waitangi partnership should look like.
"Whānau as First Navigators is a huge game-changer for our people. It's about taking a by Māori, for Māori approach to ensure the heritage, mana, whakapapa and cultural identity of our tamariki and whānau are thriving."
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaihautū (CEO) Arihia Bennett said the funding is focused on helping whānau find solutions that suit them, before tamariki end up in Oranga Tamariki care.
"We will work together with our providers, rangatahi and other whānau Maori, to co-design services which meet the needs of all Māori within our takiwā. Prevention mahi could include specialist support, respite care, arrangements with extended whānau, or engaging tamariki with sports and cultural experiences."
Bennett said since first signing a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Oranga Tamariki in 2018, the number of children in the Ngāi Tahu area in care had decreased from 362 to 262, by the end of June this year.
"Our whānau face barriers to engage with mainstream support services, such as a lack of access, mistrust or whakamā [embarrassment]. Previously, Māori haven't received the right support to prevent a significant event from happening, until after Oranga Tamariki has already intervened."
Over the next three years, Te Rūnanga will look at how it can influence and support the cultural development of social workers working alongside Māori families within the Ngāi Tahu area.
"We are the kaitiaki of our takiwā, so Whānau as First Navigators will go beyond Ngāi Tahu whānau to reach all Māori within our tribal area," Tumahai said.
"Likewise, reducing the number of tamariki and whānau in care must be a goal for all of Aotearoa."