Iwi leaders back Children's Covenant for adults to be 'champions' for our young citizens

Iwi leaders have unanimously voted to support a new Children's Covenant aimed at treasuring society's most vulnerable.

Judge Carolyn Henwood is the driver behind the project. She has worked on youth justice issues including with King Tuheitia's brother Maharaia.

Judge Henwood told tribal leaders at their quarterly hui in Hopuhopu today that for years she had worried there was nothing aspirational that set out how children should be treated.

Children (file picture). Source: Breakfast

"We've done a range of things but nothing ever grinds this country forward. Somehow we go forward and we lurch back," she said.

The covenant asks adults to pledge to be "champions" for children and that childhood should be a time of joy and light, free from neglect.

Ngati Whatua's Naida Glavish worked with Judge Henwood on the project.

Iwi leaders are sometimes the slow moving easy targets for blame when horrific child abuse cases arise.

Asked if the covenant addressed that criticism, Mrs Glavish said the covenant was a start.

"I don't think anything less than there being no child abuse would address it. However we’ve got to work together to achieve that.

"And to be able to achieve it means we have to address a whole lot of issues - housing issues, unemployment issues education issues in order for us to ensure our children are safe," she said.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is backing it, as is Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft who was also at the hui.

"We have to put a stake in the ground, the line in the sand and say our tragic rates of abuse and neglect in New Zealand must stop. As adults we have to be clear about this. This covenant provides a platform for us to be able to move forward," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English was also there. Asked if he would sign it or the Government should, he said he hadn’t had a chance to read it yet.

"There's no reason why we wouldn't support something that's aspirational for our children," he said.

Judge Henwood said the covenant is for all New Zealanders and she is working on a plan to take it out to the wider community.