June 13th, 2024

Labour voices concern over proposed repeal of Oranga Tamariki's Section 7AA

Following an urgent Waitangi Tribunal report, Labour's Willow-Jean Prime calls on the National Government to reconsider its plan to repeal Section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act, citing potential breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and risks to Māori children.

The interim report from the Tribunal highlights serious consequences of repealing Section 7AA, which ensures protections for Māori children in state care.
The interim report from the Tribunal highlights serious consequences of repealing Section 7AA, which ensures protections for Māori children in state care.

Labour's children’s spokesperson Willow-Jean Prime has called for the National Government to reconsider its coalition commitment with ACT regarding the Oranga Tamariki Act, following a stern warning from the Waitangi Tribunal.

Driving the news: Tribunal raises alarm

The interim report from the Tribunal highlights serious consequences of repealing Section 7AA, which ensures protections for Māori children in state care. The Tribunal's findings were so pressing that they bypassed the Minister for Children, Karen Chhour, addressing concerns directly to Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Māori Development Minister Tama Potaka.

What they're saying: 'A wake-up call for National'

Willow-Jean Prime criticised the proposed repeal, which originated from an ACT policy, as misaligned with the government's obligations to protect Māori children under the Treaty of Waitangi. "Repealing it is wrong, and this urgent Waitangi Tribunal interim report should help National wake up to the fact that ACT’s policy should not be government policy," Prime was quoted in a media release.

The big picture: Risks and obligations

The report underscores that the Government’s focus on fulfilling coalition agreements overlooks its Treaty obligations and could directly harm Māori children by removing established protections without offering alternatives. The Tribunal also suggests that existing provisions for a periodic legislative review offer a more principled approach to policy adjustments.

Between the lines: Calls for transparency and accountability

Prime expressed concerns over the loss of transparency and accountability that the repeal would entail, especially in light of recent moves to dismantle Treaty response teams.

"The proposal to repeal 7AA would also remove requirements to report on the outcomes for Māori children, which is crucial data that helps governments make informed decisions," she said.

What’s next: A call for legislative review

Echoing the Tribunal's recommendations, Prime advocates for halting the repeal in favour of a thorough review of the legislation, mandated to occur before 1 July next year. "The Government would do well to take note of this report," she concluded, emphasising the need for policies that genuinely serve all constituents, especially the most vulnerable.