Minister Chhour Faces Backlash Over Repeal of Tamariki Protections

New Zealand's government introduces a bill to repeal Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act, sparking criticism from Māori leaders and opposition parties. The bill aims to remove cultural protections for Māori children in care, despite warnings from the Waitangi Tribunal and child welfare advocates.

Bijay Laxmi
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Minister Chhour Faces Backlash Over Repeal of Tamariki Protections

Minister Chhour Faces Backlash Over Repeal of Tamariki Protections

New Zealand's Minister for Children, Chhour, is facing intense criticism from Green Party spokesperson Kahurangi Carter and other concerned voices over the government's plan to repeal Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act. The government, evidence, neglect controversial bill, introduced to Parliament on Monday while it is in recess, aims to scrap key protections for tamariki (children) in care.

Why this matters: The repeal of Section 7AA has significant implications for the well-being and safety of Māori children in care, and could set a dangerous precedent for the government's approach to indigenous rights and child welfare. The controversy surrounding this bill also highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in government decision-making, particularly when it comes to vulnerable populations.

Section 7AA was introduced to prioritize cultural factors and connections to whānau, hapū, and iwi for tamariki Māori in care arrangements. However, Minister Chhour claims that this section creates conflict for Oranga Tamariki when making decisions in the best interests of children. The government argues that Section 7AA has led to the removal of tamariki Māori from stable long-term care and placed them with groups to which they whakapapa.

Green Party spokesperson Kahurangi Carter strongly disagrees with the Minister's justification, accusing her of "either ignorance or deliberate deception." Carter cites controversial, bill, parliament evidence that Section 7AA has actually improved safety and stability for children both inside and outside of state care. "Severe neglect and tremendous incompetence have completely consumed this Government's approach to our tamariki," Carter states.

The repeal bill also sparked controversy due to its timing, as it was tabled just as the Waitangi Tribunal had summoned Minister Chhour to submit evidence as part of an urgent inquiry. The tribunal's report warned that repealing Section 7AA could cause harm to children in care, describing it as "prejudicial" and "hasty". With the bill's introduction, the tribunal no longer has jurisdiction over the case until it has left the House.

Te Pāti Māori has expressed disgust at the bill, with MP Mariameno Kapa-Kingi calling it "rubbish, disgusting and appalling." Kapa-Kingi, a former social worker, argues that repealing Section 7AA will lead to traumatic changes in placement for tamariki Māori and prioritize the government's agenda over their well-being. "They're showing their hand, they're showing their practice, they're showing that they believe they know better for mokopuna Māori," Kapa-Kingi states.

The Labour Party's acting children's spokesperson, Carmel Sepuloni, echoes these concerns, warning that the government's refusal to heed the tribunal's findings may lead to harmful ramifications for Māori children. Sepuloni calls on the government to abandon the "callous bill" and instead engage widely with affected groups to review the section using the current legislation.

As the controversy surrounding the repeal of Section 7AA intensifies, Minister Chhour faces mounting pressure to address the concerns raised by Māori leaders, opposition parties, and child welfare advocates. The government's handling of this sensitive issue has drawn sharp criticism, with many accusing it of disregarding the rights and well-being of tamariki Māori in pursuit of its own agenda. The fate of the bill and the future of Māori children in care now hang in the balance as the nation awaits the government's response to these urgent calls for reconsideration and meaningful consultation.

Key Takeaways

  • New Zealand's government plans to repeal Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act, sparking criticism.
  • Section 7AA prioritizes cultural factors and connections for Māori children in care arrangements.
  • Opponents argue the repeal will harm Māori children, citing evidence of improved safety and stability.
  • The government's timing is criticized, as the Waitangi Tribunal had summoned evidence on the issue.
  • Māori leaders, opposition parties, and child welfare advocates urge the government to reconsider.