The Children's Commissioner has told the Iwi Chairs Forum it's time for a true revolution in the way at-risk Māori children are taken into the care of the state.

The national Iwi Chairs Forum has been taking place in Whanganui this week and concludes today.

The commissioner, Judge Andrew Becroft, said legislation, which was first written into law in 1989, set out a new way for government agencies, hapu and iwi to collaborate in decisions for at-risk children.

"Despite early promising signs, in the end there was something of a failure in not grasping the full opportunity that the law provided," he said.

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Judge Becroft said when a child was taken into care by the state, that child's wider Maori network was not consulted, despite the legislation's reference to collaboration.

"The new Oranga Tamariki Legislation ... is essentially of the same foundations but probably even stronger.

"We've got a chance this time to do what we didn't do in 1989, bring about a true revolution working with whanau, hapu and iwi and Oranga Tamariki."

Judge Becroft said it would demand a comprehensive shift so there was genuine partnership with iwi and delegation of powers where appropriate.

"That means for instance when a child is at risk of removal, the whakapapa links of that child will have to be found, iwi will have to assist.

"I said at the outset revolution isn't usually the word that a Children's Commissioner who is a judge would use.

"But arguably the 1989 legislation set out a blueprint for a revolution in its partnership with whanau hapu and iwi."

The new Oranga Tamariki legislation Judge Becroft was talking about is due to come into force from July 1 next year.