The Children's Minister and leader of the opposition have backed the head of the government agency at the centre of a scathing inquiry into its disproportionate uplifting of Māori babies.

The Māori-led review of the embattled Oranga Tamariki, released today, revealed hundreds of stories of babies being removed from their whānau, some involving armed police turning up without notice.

Dame Naida Glavish, who chaired the governance group overseeing the Whānau Ora review, said the report confirms "systemic failure, discrimination and inexplicable breaches of human rights towards Māori".

The report was one of five reviews sparked by the highly-publicised uplifting of a newborn baby from her mother in Hastings last year, but was the only one led by Māori, who are five times more likely than non-Māori to have their babies removed by the state.

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Glavish said they were calling for a complete overhaul of Oranga Tamariki, the Family Court ex-parte (without notice) order process, the law that facilitated uplifts, and she wanted to see the immediate resignation of chief executive Grainne Moss.

Dame Naida Glavish chaired the governance group overseeing the Māori review into Oranga Tamariki. Photo / Te Rawhitiroa Bosch, Supplied
Dame Naida Glavish chaired the governance group overseeing the Māori review into Oranga Tamariki. Photo / Te Rawhitiroa Bosch, Supplied

But Tracey Martin, Minister responsible for Oranga Tamariki, has defended Moss, telling RNZ it was just one perspective.

"Te ao Māori is not asking for her resignation - Naida Glavish is."

Many of the instances of racism and maltreatment raised in the report involving the removal of Māori babies had occurred before the creation of Oranga Tamariki three years ago, and were issues the ministry was designed to address, she said.

READ MORE:
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Martin previously told the Herald she was "really pleased" to receive the report because she was already working on many of its recommendations, including setting up pilot projects where families notified to Ōranga Tamariki could be referred to Whānau Ora agencies before they reached crisis point.

Tracey Martin, Minister responsible for Oranga Tamariki, said she was please to see the report, as the ministry was already working on many of its recommendations. Photo / File
Tracey Martin, Minister responsible for Oranga Tamariki, said she was please to see the report, as the ministry was already working on many of its recommendations. Photo / File

They'd also developed strategic partnerships with with four iwi: Ngāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi, Waikato-Tainui and Tūhoe.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said the latest report was "concerning" but he didn't agree with calls for the chief executive to resign.

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"I think what we see are some areas that are very concerning, police armed, turning up, things New Zealanders would be concerned about and are troubling.

"But on the other side are cases that require uplift, situations that sometimes are ... in the interest of the child that that occurs.

"I think the vast majority of New Zealanders, would agree the work of social workers is hard and sometimes thankless. They are most times best placed to be, I'm sure reluctantly, making these decisions.

"There may be some changes required, what has happened in some instances highlighted, is entirely regrettable and troubling."

National leader Simon Bridges said the report was concerning, but he disagreed with calls for the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki's resignation. Photo / File
National leader Simon Bridges said the report was concerning, but he disagreed with calls for the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki's resignation. Photo / File

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss said the organisation acknowledged the report and the courage of the whānau who shared such personal stories.

"We will now take the time to work through the report," she said.

Moss said that while all New Zealanders wanted to see fewer children in care, Oranga Tamariki had an absolute obligation to protect those at risk.

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In the year to September the ministry received reports about 62,300 children - many involving serious harm issues, including family violence, sexual abuse, neglect and methamphetamine.

Moss said Oranga Tamariki had made "good progress" since it was created in 2017. "Listening to the views of others and better understanding the experiences of tamariki, rangatahi and whānau is crucial, and this report gives us further perspectives to continue that work."

The Whānau Ora report is one of five inquiries to arise following the ministry's attempted taking of a week-old baby from a Hawke's Bay mother in May last year.

A damning review of the case, released in November, slammed Oranga Tamariki for "significant gaps" in trying to understand the family's current situation, and the lack of consultation with parents and whānau.

Moss apologised to the whānau at the time. The ministry has also announced changes to ensure children are better protected and cared for, involving working more closely with Māori organisations and iwi.

The Māori-led review, based on interactions with 1100 whānau across the country, will be discussed at the Iwi Chairs Forum in Waitangi this week to seek support before presenting it to the Government, sparking a potential political showdown during Waitangi Day on Thursday.

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