"Not one more child will be uplifted and iwi will intervene at all costs."
That's the powerful message from Ngati Kahungunu Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana to the Government after a standoff involving police at Hawke's Bay Hospital over a seven-day-old baby boy about to be uplifted by Oranga Tamariki earlier this week.
On Thursday Tomoana and chairman of Takitimu District Māori Council Des Ratima spoke to Hawke's Bay Today about the incident.
Ratima backed Tomoana's call that "not one more child" will be taken.
Newsroom reported that the Family Court ordered the uplift on the grounds the child's wider family had a background of domestic violence and drug use - a claim disputed by the whānau.
The mother, who had her first baby taken in the same way last year, delivered her son by caesarean section on May 1.
Oranga Tamariki applied for, and was granted, a without-notice custody order the next day.
It was directed by the judge to notify the boy's mother, but this didn't happen according to Ratima.
On May 6, three Oranga Tamariki workers arrived with a car seat and forms and told the mother they had come to take the baby.
Negotiations with family, Oranga Tamariki and police went on until 2am on Wednesday when it was finally decided that the baby would not be uplifted.
A Hastings social worker cited drug use, lack of parenting skills, and transient home environments as reasons to uplift.
According to Oranga Tamariki documentation, three Māori babies a week on average are being uplifted from maternity hospitals all over the country within three months of their births.
In a statement, Māori public health organisation Hāpai Te Hauora said they supported the actions of two Māori midwives Jean Te Huia and Ripeka Ormsby who sought to prevent the uplifting of the baby from the hospital.
"The pair, alongside a contingent of whānau contested the uplifting of the baby on the grounds that the report made against the mother and her family were presumptuous and based on information which was under dispute," the statement read.
"It is important to understand that this kind of scenario is not unique."
They say that the midwives' resistance reinforces the need for the state to urgently review current practices and to consider the devastating impacts its methods are having on whānau Māori.
"Removing and displacing mokopuna fails to acknowledge whānau ora practices, which places hapū and whānau as agents of support. The strength of whakapapa tells us that our mokopuna have the wider support structures within the collective."
CEO of Hāpai te Hauora Selah Hart said the situation demonstrated the overriding power within institutions disconnecting Māori whānau.
"Whānau Māori are disproportionately uplifted by the state and these have traumatic and intergenerational impacts. We need to ensure that these patterns do not continue within our communities and look to solutions which support and strengthen whakapapa."
Hart said the dispute sat within the context of broader Treaty of Waitangi health claims and illustrate how Māori communities have historic and contemporary grievances which need to be urgently addressed.
More to come.