Whānau Ora's North Island commissioning chair is calling for Oranga Tamariki head Gráinne Moss to resign over the agency's failures towards Māori.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning Oranga Tamariki was failing Māori, and that Moss "should never have been appointed to that position”.
“The Government needs to look at who made that appointment in the first place."
Raukawa-Tait said she and others tried to help Moss as she settled into the role four years ago, but it became clear within six months “she didn’t have the skills and knowledge to move the organisation where it had to go”.
She said Moss went into the job with the best intentions, “but she wasn’t fit for purpose”.
“The State Services Commission appointed a woman who had little understanding of tikanga Māori, little understanding of the dynamics that are happening in Māori whānau. She had no networks.”
Newsroom reported in June this year that the recommendation to appoint Moss was made by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie to then-Minister of State Services Paula Bennett, according to a 2016 document.
Newsroom’s report also heard from a number of Bupa employees who raised issues about Moss’ conduct during her time there as managing director, before she was appointed to Oranga Tamariki.
Raukawa-Tait called on all ministers to get on board to improve outcomes for Māori in the state care system.
In particular, Raukawa-Tait called on Children’s and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis to “step up”.
“He’s the minister of the pipeline,” she said, with Māori over-represented in both state care and prison populations.
Oranga Tamariki admitting to ‘systemic racism’ in its agency
Appearing before the tribunal’s inquiry into the removal of Māori children yesterday, Moss made the concession the Crown “should have identified the need to tackle structural racism head-on in the establishment of Oranga Tamariki”.
Moss also said the agency had failed to implement the recommendations of landmark racism report Puao-te-Ata-tu from 1988.
Raukawa-Tait acknowledged Moss’ concessions yesterday, but said “it was sad to hear it because we have been saying it for a long time”.
“All of this time and effort that we’re putting in to try and prop up a Government organisation we should be putting in to the families … It’s the families that need to be strengthened,” Raukawa-Tait said.
“The [Children’s] Minister needs to listen to the evidence she was giving yesterday. He needs to listen and hear her responses. That is a person that cannot do the job.
“She was saying yesterday she wants to partner with Māori. Māori will not partner with an organisation that is not in any way, shape, or form dealing with the issues that are so big that they have to come to terms with.”
Raukawa-Tait added: “It was embarrassing to listen to [Moss] yesterday.”
She said people needed to trust that Māori were capable of looking after their own, and that Māori would need support from the Government to do so.
But, she said uplifting Māori children wouldn’t solve anything.
Moss dismisses speculation of her resignation
After appearing before the Tribunal, Moss yesterday dismissed speculation that she was resigning.
It comes after calls from some Māori, including from former Māori Party leader Dame Tariana Turia, that she step down.
“I'm not set to resign, I can confirm I'm staying in my role,” Moss said.
"I'm absolutely committed to the kaupapa, and we've made really good progress.
“But, there's lots more to do and it's a privilege to be able to have an opportunity to improve the outcomes for tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau.”
She said she had “no idea” where the rumours came from that she was resigning.
Moss also said she hadn’t been asked by new Children’s Minister Davis to step down.
"We've had some very constructive, positive meetings, conversations, and he is deeply committed to better outcomes and I'm committed to those outcomes too."
On TVNZ1’s Breakfast earlier this week, Davis wouldn't be drawn on whether he had confidence in Moss. He said he was still getting to know her.
Davis said he was "looking forward to a positive and constructive working relationship" with the leadership of Oranga Tamariki.
Māori babies were five times more likely to be placed in state custody than non-Māori.