The Children's Commissioner is launching a review into Oranga Tamariki's child uplift policies relating to care and protection issues for Maori babies.

It follows controversy over the attempted uplift last month of a young Maori mother's baby from Hawke's Bay Hospital that today saw Minister for Children Tracey Martin announce an internal inquiry.

The "thematic review" by Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft will look specifically at policies around Maori kids aged 0-3 months.

"At the time of the attempted uplift from Hawke's Bay Maternity Hospital at the beginning of May, our Office shared our views on the critical importance of the mother-child relationship, and the fact that this relationship is denied to too many Māori children," Becroft said in a statement.


"My Office has been concerned about this issue for some considerable time and discussions with several parties involved have heightened the need for a review of Oranga Tamariki's practice when they are notified of serious care and protection concerns for young babies."

Becroft said it had become clear over recent weeks that the community was "profoundly uneasy" with the way our current care and protection of tamariki Maori was carried out.

"We believe it is time to examine closely the policies standing behind present practice, and the processes used to implement them, with a view to identifying any necessary change to policy, processes and practice."

The Commissioner said tonight the review would focus on the 0-3 months age group, but he couldn't rule out extending the review to older children.

His office had a statutory mandate to investigate, and the Commissioner said: "If we didn't do it we would be asleep at the wheel."

Earlier today Martin announced an internal inquiry by Oranga Tamariki into its processes around the Hasting family's case.

"I was particularly sorry to see the events that unfolded in the hospital that day.

New Zealand First MP and Minister for Children Tracey Martin today announced an internal review by Oranga Tamariki. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New Zealand First MP and Minister for Children Tracey Martin today announced an internal review by Oranga Tamariki. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"Everybody in that room has been impacted negatively and we need to come back together and work together constructively, not just for this whanau but also for the whanau of the future and the whanau that are actually in the process now."


Martin said more details would be announced in the next day or so, but the inquiry would be "led with the voice of whānau" and an independent person who Ngāti Kahungunu was "comfortable with" would also be part of the process.

But its findings would not be made public.

Martin said it was the whānau's information.

"We have to remember this is about a family. This was a family that didn't have a lot of power to start with, if any. And they are actually now experiencing quite a lot of things going on around them again without them having any power.

"This is an internal review about what happened to them, so there will be a level of information that will be shared with them and with iwi that will not go public because this is their journey."

Oranga Tamariki and iwi would also "come together, with Ngāti Kahungunu leading the process to develop early intervention, intensive intervention services" for everyone in this rohe who needed support, Martin said.

"None of us wants to get to the place what we saw the other day and to do that we need to do more in the prevention ... and walk alongside our families."

Through a project called Kōrero Mai Whānau, the iwi invited whānau to "tell their stories", which they will share with government agencies in the future to "try to ascertain better outcomes for both whānau and for the agencies to meet our expectations from our whānau".

Meanwhile, it emerged today that Hawke's Bay iwi Ngāti Kahungunu has already intervened five times to stop Oranga Tamariki removal of children from their families since the Hawke's Bay Hospital baby uplift attempt five weeks ago.

And it's not just Māori families affected, says chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, who told Hawke's Bay Today the May 7-8 drama and the iwi commitment to not one more child being uplifted "opened the floodgates" as families across the Bay started calling for help.

Speaking after today's meeting with Martin, Labour Party deputy leader and Minister for Crown/Maori Relationships Kelvin Davis and Minister for Maori Development Nanaia Mahuta, Tomoana said the iwi, through kaumatua Des Ratima, had to "intervene physically" three weeks ago to block the removal of a Pākehā couple's two children at the hospital.

Their family had approached the iwi for help, one of many such calls.

"We're being alerted by either whānau members, by midwives, by social workers that there is a court order on the child ... and we send intervention letters saying we want to get involved.

"It is probably more widespread. This crisis has brought some solution opportunities right across the country."