Taken By The State

Oranga Tamariki taking Newsroom to court

Children's agency Oranga Tamariki went to court yesterday seeking orders for cuts to a Newsroom video story on a controversial 'uplift' of a Māori baby.

The ministry engaged law firm Kensington Swan and partner Linda Clark to file an urgent memorandum with the Family Court asking for Newsroom to be ordered to change the story by investigations editor Melanie Reid.

Clark wrote to Newsroom's editors claiming the story identified the baby and its mother and whānau in breach of the law, a charge this website rejects. She alleges Newsroom's measures to protect the baby's identity are insufficient as the gender and age of the baby and location of its birth, among other things, are reported. 

The legal move followed a complaint a day earlier to the Media Council ahead of Newsroom's publication of the video story on the uplift, in which social workers tried to take a week-old baby from its mother's maternity bed in Hawke's Bay Hospital. The video contains footage of the woman's family and midwife being locked out of the hospital at night as social workers try to wait out the lone mother into the early hours and execute an order Oranga Tamariki had obtained from the Family Court.

"The child at the centre of these proceedings, is, in every sense, vulnerable," Clark's letter says. 

Which is the central point of the Newsroom story: detailing the repeated efforts of Oranga Tamariki to take the child from its mother, despite having agreed a different care plan and saying no move would be made on the child and then returning late at night with a police escort and a baby car seat.

Clark's letter says: "Your decision to publish the video in full is regarded by our client as deliberately provocative and concerning."

Newsroom does not accept the ministry's claims, believes there is overwhelming public interest in revealing what went on, and will oppose the application to the Family Court.

Children's minister Tracey Martin yesterday backed Oranga Tamariki over the Hawke's Bay case, saying it has a duty to act and has since worked closely with iwi Ngāti Kahungunu to improve relations.

But her attempt to back her department drew a powerful response from iwi leader Des Ratima, who had worked to resolve the state's attempts to take the baby last month.

Martin said the state would continue to uplift children so long as it considered there was a threat to their safety. 

Respected kaumātua Des Ratima says there is no justification for the circumstances of the attempted uplift. Photo: Still from video

She said the Government was working constructively with iwi, including Ngāti Kahungunu, to improve relations between them and Oranga Tamariki. She said Ngāti Kahungunu had met Oranga Tamariki in the past couple of weeks “to create a better working relationship".

Ratima provided Newsroom with the following response to the Martin claims: 

"Tena koe e te minita.

Te tuahine o Ngati Kahungunu no te whanau Mohi e mihi kauana Kia koe ahakoa te taumahatanga o enei kaupapa ko Māori koe tuatahi.

The fact that there have been discussions with Ngāti Kahungunu is not a result. It is a cause. The discussion must not be used to justify the actions of Oranga Tamariki. It is because of their actions that caused the hui. There is no justification for the circumstances of what happened in Hastings. It is not only the actions of social workers but the institutional racist culture of Oranga Tamariki which their people feel justified to disempower whānau, to create history for uplift without current input from midwives and community. To deliberately exclude Māori leaders from engaging with a mother under stress. What organisation would allow this type of behaviour?

For too long Oranga Tamariki has operated without accountability for their actions by Māori or by communities. All are impacted by their institutional approach to disempower our young mothers and families.

Are all our families perfect?

No. However they are OUR whānau OUR problems OUR solutions OUR way. You have occupied this space for too long and not brought the outcomes Māori seek. Not only should Oranga Tamariki give over the funding and the resources to Māori they must also return the name Oranga Tamariki a beautiful taonga you have disrespected. Return to being CYFS that is more in line with your achievements."

Read more: NZ's own 'taken generation'

Health board member muzzled over uplift

An injustice we can no longer tolerate 

Oranga Tamariki 'pleased to support mum'

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