Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis was shouted down as he tried to address hundreds of protesters marching on Parliament to demand a halt to Government uplifts of Māori babies.

A call for "not one baby more, not one acre more, not one whānau more" led speeches as about 400 rallied on Parliament's lawn on Tuesday to hand an open letter signed by 17,000 thousand people to Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson.

Organising group Hands off our Tamariki Network is calling for a halt to children being removed from their families and iwi by Oranga Tamariki, in a debate spurred by a Newsroom video showing the trauma of an attempted uplift in Hastings this year.

"It's time for us to take control, as whānau, of our own wellbeing. It's time for us to take control as hapu, as iwi, as Māori for the wellbeing of our Tamariki and mokopuna," organiser Leonie Pihama told the crowd to cheers.

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"It's time to dismantle the Ministry of Stealing Children."

Former Māori party co-leader Dame Tariana Turia was among the speakers, describing how she had been taken from her mother at birth and placed with whānau.

Dame Tariana Turia leads the Hands off Our Tamariki Network as they arrive at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Dame Tariana Turia leads the Hands off Our Tamariki Network as they arrive at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"The right thing to do is to place tamariki within their own whakapapa," she said.

"For too long we've allowed others to take control of our lives and particularly those of our whānau.

"I'm not saying that we are here to protect those who have abused our tamariki ... but what I am saying is that for every whānau, hapu and iwi there are others who think they know what's best for us."

In a heated speech, the midwife featured in the uplift video, Jean Te Huia, challenged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to listen to the protest as the "mother of the country".

Ardern is currently overseas, as is deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

That meant it was deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis - as acting PM - who faced the crowd.

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He was met with shouts and jeers as he tried to explain the Government's efforts to address the issue.

"What you're asking for is exactly what we're offering," Davis said, as some in the crowd vocally disagreed.

The speech went less than a minute.

Three investigations were launched into Oranga Tamariki following the release of the video, including an internal one by the department, and another by the Chief Ombudsman.

Davis said the Government was looking to co-design the system with Māori.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters this week defended the work of social workers. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters this week defended the work of social workers. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Peters this week defended social workers, telling reporters that since the uplift in the video, three Māori babies had been killed.

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"If any of you understand Māoridom, you'll know there is some deep disquiet with respect to the treatment of women and children in particular," he said.

"So let's not wipe our hands of this - and own up to the fact that if there's going to be a change, then there has to be a cultural renaissance in Māoridom itself as to its internal responsibilities to help fix this issue."

Receiving the letter on Tuesday, Davison said she felt "absolutely accountable" to every mother who had contacted her.

"I am clear that the trauma, abuse, by the state of our tamariki must stop," she said.

But while the Greens, Labour and National were all represented in front of Parliament, it was only Māori Party flags that hovered over the protest.

Māori Party president Che Wilson led the singing and march as the protesters came onto the lawn.

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He points to the gathering, and the ongoing protests at Ihumātao, in Auckland - as a rekindling of an independent Māori voice.

"We need to start change things because the continuous efforts of this new Government are just feeding the bureaucracy," he said.