The Waitangi Tribunal has released an interim report on the Crown’s proposed repeal of section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

Section 7AA imposes duties on the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki to provide a practical commitment to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The purpose of this section is to reduce the number of Māori entering care and improve outcomes for children in care.

This interim report responds to claims filed in the Tribunal regarding the Crown’s policy to repeal section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act.

Following the October 2023 election, the New Zealand National Party and the ACT New Zealand Party entered into a coalition agreement. This agreement included a commitment to remove section 7AA from the Act.

The claimants argue that repealing section 7AA, and the lack of consultation with Māori regarding the repeal, breaches the Crown’s duties under te Tiriti.

As this is an interim report, the Tribunal has made no findings or recommendations, but raises the following matters for the government to consider:

First, the Tribunal raises concern that the government’s focus on fulfilling its coalition agreement by repealing section 7AA has caused it to disregard its Treaty obligations.

Second, the Tribunal notes that there is a risk that the repeal of section 7AA will cause actual harm. The Tribunal is particularly concerned about the risk of harm to vulnerable children that may result from the sudden repeal of the section.

Finally, the Tribunal considers that there is a “more principled way forward” available under section 448B of the Act. Section 448B provides for the Minister responsible for administering the Act to undertake a periodic review of the legislation, including whether any amendments to legislation are desirable to ensure the needs of the children are met.

The Tribunal notes that this process would allow any concerns the Minister may have to be properly analysed. The Tribunal therefore urged the government to stop the repeal to enable such a review to be undertaken.

You can read more about the interim report here