'Damned if you do and damned if you don't': MPs back Oranga Tamaraki's child uplift policy

The AM Show 14/06/2019

National MP Judith Collins is calling out Dame Tariana Turia, saying child uplifts happened when she was in Government and would continue to do so.

Dame Tariana has called for the head of children's welfare agency Oranga Tamariki to resign following the release of a video showing social workers at a maternity ward trying to take a week-old baby out of her mother's arms.

Chief executive Grainne Moss told The AM Show on Thursday the video, released by Newsroom, was misleading because it only showed a fraction of the footage that was shot.

I would say there's a very significant misrepresentation of the total story.

"We bring [children] into care with the approval of the courts after we've provided evidence that actually, this may be the only way to keep that child safe."

Dame Tariana said Moss was minimising the case, calling the attempted uplift "appalling" regardless of its length.

"I've had lots of people call me and tell me how disgusted they are with Oranga Tamariki, and there is a movement going on within Māoridom that something will be done about it... I think she should resign."

Grainne Moss and Dame Tariana Turia. Credit: The AM Show

Appearing on The AM Show on Friday morning, Collins and Labour MP Kris Faafoi backed Oranga Tamariki.

"You think about kids who weren't uplifted - the James Whakarurus, the Delcelia Witikas - these little kids who were left in situations where in hindsight people go, 'What the hell were kids doing in a place like this?'" said Collins.

There's got to be a better way of dealing with it, but I tell you, I don't know what that way is yet.

Delcelia's death shocked New Zealand in 1991. The two-year-old had been subjected to horrific abuse and torture before dying alone in a pool of blood, urine and faeces while her stepfather and mother were at a friend's house partying.

Four-year-old James was killed by his stepfather in 1999 after years of abuse, including being hit with a hammer and being poked in the eyes. His family was reportedly well-known to social workers, but the boy remained in their custody.

"As a local MP you see cases come through where you would hope the agency would intervene and remove a child from the situation becaue you know it's not safe," said Faafoi. "But we continue to see cases where those kids haven't been, and they turn into tragedies.

In general, sometimes you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Collins said Oranga Tamariki isn't to blame.

"These kids are not in danger because of the agency. They're in danger because of the families that they're living in.

"I think Dame Tariana has very, very firm views on this. Having said that, she was also in Govenrment with Labour and in coalition with us, and this is not something that we stopped and not something Labour stopped under Helen Clark - and will not be stopping while kids are being killed in their own homes."

Judith Collins and Kris Faafoi. Photo credit: The AM Show

Newsroom rejected Moss' characterisation of the video as a "significant misrepresentation", saying on Thursday "all interactions between the social workers and the mother in her hospital room... were caught on video by the whānau and Newsroom has used all relevant exchanges, fairly and in context, much of it unedited and in real-time".

The mother's lawyer told the site she was "aghast" at Moss' claims.

"For those of us working long hours at the coal face and receiving calls each day from desperate women whose babies have been taken by the state on the flimsiest of so-called evidence, the documentary showed in black and white what is actually happening to these women," said Janet Mason.

Dame Tariana earlier this year said Oranga Tamariki's treatment of Māori children and families "smacks of racism".

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherley