In an "overwhelming response", Māori from across the country will pack out an Auckland hui to launch an inquiry into Oranga Tamariki.

It is one of four inquiries into the embattled ministry, after the highly publicised attempted uplift of a 6-day-old baby in May, but the only one led by Māori.

Organisers say more than 400 people will attend the hui at the Holiday Inn, Māngere, and they have had to turn away the same number again because of capacity issues.

"The response has been overwhelming," said Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, chair of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, which is organising the inquiry.


"The major difference to the other inquiries is this one has been called for by Māori who are fed up, to be with Māori participants, and be for and about Māori."

Being Māori-led would make it easier for some participants who had been dealing with Oranga Tamariki their entire lives to open up, Raukawa-Tait said.

Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said the response to today's hui had been
Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said the response to today's hui had been "overwhelming". Photo / Supplied

"There is a level of mistrust. Māori will be more comfortable sharing with someone across the table who has an understanding, and who they believe will be non-judgmental."

The number of Māori babies being removed from their mothers soon after birth has jumped by more than 50 per cent since 2016 to 160, while for non-Māori it has only shifted slightly from 118 to 121.

While the uplift policy had been going on for decades, the recent increase and shocking footage published by Newsroom of the Hawke's Bay incident had spurred a cry from Māori across the country that "enough is enough", Raukawa-Tait said.

"A Māori child is six times more likely to be uplifted than a non-Māori child," Raukawa-Tait said.

"What we saw [in Hawke's Bay] was disgusting - social workers from Oranga Tamariki, aided by police, using all of their powers to disempower a young mother.

"The worst thing is now we are hearing from people across the country saying it is happening in their areas, too.


"We are not trusting Māori families to look after their own."

Raukawa-Tait said the hui and subsequent inquiry would launch a new approach to child removals.

"It may be necessary in some situations to remove a child for their safety, but what Māori are saying is we have to put more resources into early intervention and prevention.

"Oranga Tamariki says it has solutions, says it will work more with Māori, but says it needs five years to see the changes. We cannot wait that long, we have already been waiting, and we know it has not worked.

"Right now we have a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, we know 82 per cent Māori incarcerataed were once in state care. We have to stop this ridiculous notion state care is safe care; it is a pipeline into the system."

Oranga Tamariki reported 7500 children in their care and protection last year. In six months, 220 of those children went on to be abused while in that care – 70 per cent were Māori.

While Oranga Tamariki has said it would work more closely with Māori, and was bound by legislation now to do so, Raukawa-Tait said it had long ignored the Māori way.

"The system places a European model over traditional Māori ways, such as whaangai [adoption], or grandparents being more involved. Families are more disconnected today, but there is no way if you tried you could not find somebody to support a child from the hapū or even iwi, there is no reason to take a child away from their whakapapa. We have grandparents, putting their hands up, but being ignored."

Saturday's hui would involve a wide range of speakers from across Māoridom, and from those who have worked in the area of child removals.

It would culminate in several different wānanga, with the process designed to help decide on the scope and parameters of the inquiry.

Three other inquiries are also under way, by Oranga Tamariki, the Children's Commissioner and Ombudsman.

Oranga Tamariki Minister Tracey Martin said she was interested to see what came out of the hui.

"The Government is making significant changes to how Oranga Tamariki works so that children are better protected and cared for.

"Part of that is about working far differently with Māori and iwi organisations and I'll look at any suggestions that will make things better for children and their families."