Thursday, May 16, 2024

Simon O'Connor: Love, culture, and the Waitangi Tribunal

For the sake of New Zealand's vulnerable children, we need to do much better and it begins by ensuring loving, stable homes are prioritised over adults' political and cultural preferences.

For reasons I can’t fully explain, there was very muted reporting of the Court of Appeal overturning a previous High Court judgement which held that a Minister of the Crown does not have to attend a summons by the Waitangi Tribunal. The new ruling says that the Minister, in this case Karen Chhour, needs to attend.

This is a big deal! Not only does it strike at a key concept of our democracy, it is also a change of law that I believe is a good idea – and an idea that will benefit New Zealand children in care.

All of this is around the current government’s intention to remove clause 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act. This clause says that Oranga Tamariki (formerly Child, Youth, and Family) must take into account the Treaty of Waitangi and ensure the cultural connections of children in care are prioritised.

To some, this may sound ok but in reality it has meant vulnerable children are being taken from loving foster families so as to fulfil the cultural and political preferences of adults. So much for the idea that children are the centre of the system. Some may recall the case of Moana – a Maori child in the care of a New Zealand European couple. After four or so years with this couple in a loving, stable, situation – Moana was removed so that her cultural connections could be renewed. To me, this is simply putting adults’ political/cultural preferences ahead of the good of the child. Love and security are two critical qualities children need. Foster parents won’t ignore cultural needs, but to put culture ahead of love, security, safety, stability, and care is just so wrong-headed that it beggars belief.

As I write, Newsroom have published a story that I can only describe as shockingly appalling in terms of what the current legal settings and application by Oranga Tamariki (OT). It is also important to add that OT and others have fought to stop this and others stories being told. In this story, four traumatised children were given to English foster parents, specifically as a ‘forever home’. It turned out to be anything but, with OT turning up and removing the children to again suit adults’ preference of culture over love and care.

If children are truly to be the centre of any care system, then what must be prioritised are stable, loving, and secure homes. The culture of the foster parents is secondary (if that) in my opinion. Yes, foster parents should be aware of the cultural heritage of a child and work to support this. But to put cultural on a pedestal and think it some how replaces love is madness, as too often returning a child to a family culture which was often broken in the first place. I say all of this as a foster-parent myself. This is not just theory to me and my family.

The other whole aspect of this sorry story is the dramatic overreach of the Waitangi Tribunal. As another commentator, Liam Hehir, has noted the tribunal is set up to look at breaches - that is, events that have happened. In this current situation, the Tribunal is intervening before anything has happened! It is critiquing an intention to change the law and this is a major change of behaviour.

In doing so, the Tribunal is challenging parliamentary sovereignty. Whether we like particular governments or not, they are elected to make laws and have the only – or sovereign – right to do so. If we don’t like them, we toss them out every three years. The Tribunal however has decided its unelected members can now insert itself into this parliamentary process and opine on what should, or should not, happen. In effect, I would argue the Tribunal is making itself a second house of parliament. While at this stage it is only calling in one Minister of the Crown to question, it is not hard to see how this initial overreach becomes a consistent behaviour.

For the sake of our democracy and our children, we need to be better. Much better.

Simon O'Connor a former National MP graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Political Studies . Simon blogs at On Point - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

When are Luxon et al going to get rid of the Waitangi Tribunal and associated legislation?

This is such a simple question.

And the outcome would be a huge step to freeing NZ from occupation by the crazy fake maori culture that has sabotaged and is now destroying NZ.

Robert Arthur said...

The maori concern is that maori children often do well in non maori homes and the resultant statistics pose a problem for maori. (The fact that they will win some back, articulate and able, escapes them).

Ray S said...

Who ever would have thought the WT would not jump for joy at the Appeal Court decision?
The WT will use the precedent to "summons" elected MPs at the drop of a hat over any matter before it.

It is time for the WT to be disbanded or at least have the rules around it clearly defined.

Leaving it as it is will lead to further and rapid decline of our already fragile democracy.

A good test of the government, are they up to it? watch this space.

Ray S said...

The thing about a childs cultural need is BS.
It's about getting the child away from white people who are showing the child there is a better way.
In any event, the child may choose to indulge in another culture when he or she has matured enough to see the world as it is.

A child taken out of a caring foster home on "cultural" grounds is not for the child. As pointed out, it is the parents or wider family members who take the child supposedly to meet the childs "cultural" needs.

Is hatred of things white so bad that children become merely pawns in the big game.?

Peter said...

It's long overdue that we acknowledged that the "Maori culture", that creates this cohort of children in desperate need, is corrupt and broken. Given the statistics, it clearly is a culture that predominates and so the last thing these children need is to be potentially further exposed to it. The adults that champion this cultural/racist nonsense are not interested in the betterment of the children, but seek further continuing ammunition for their own ends. As you indicate Simon, they are merely pawns in a bigger game.

Peter said...

Apologies Ray, my final comment should have been attributed to you.