Iwi leaders say dealing with Oranga Tamariki is difficult and frustrating and it’s going to take huge improvements before a partnership between them will work.
From next month, new legislation will require the Children’s Ministry to work with Māori, but several iwi say the agency overrides them, withholds information and is inflexible.
When Ngāti Ruanui found out three young descendants were living in a hotel in Auckland and needed care, the South Taranaki iwi mobilised to find caregivers with whakapapa links.
But chief executive Debbie Ngarewa Packer said Oranga Tamariki went against their wishes to keep the kids together, and sent only one child to them.
“Even though they knew that there was this iwi relationship going on and this was a test run for us to try and show how we could make it work, there were no extra efforts,” she said.
“There were no favours, don’t get me wrong – nothing that changes the dialogue just because there is a whole iwi waiting at the other end.”
Ms Ngarewa Packer said while the agency’s Māori unit is good to work with, there are concerns that the agency withholds information, will not return their calls and misses deadlines.
“In my life, I have never seen anything so exasperating and so ridiculously archaic.That is why mistakes are happening there.. Because the left hand cannot talk to the right hand.”
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley said he shed a tear when the Tauranga iwi closed its care and protection services in 2016, after 15 years.
But he said the child welfare agency did not resource them properly and audited them so often, that they felt driven out of the work.
“There is still a lot of control that the state has on that and the state wields that power quite well,” he said.