Marama Fox threatening to walk away from the government if vulnerable children legislation doesn't change

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox says she'd walk away from the government over Maori children long before the Kermadecs.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox says she'd walk away from the government over Maori children long before the Kermadecs.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox is threatening to walk away from the Government over new legislation that doesn't ensure Maori children are placed with whanau when the state removes them from their home.

Prime Minister Bill English isn't budging on the wording in legislation to overhaul Child, Youth and Family (CYF), which would remove the priority to place a child with a member of their family or wider hapu if possible or someone with the same cultural background. 

"Just because we want to provide a safe and loving home doesn't make it mutually exclusive to a Maori home," Fox said.

"We're not talking about putting a child back into an unsafe home - that's stupid - but just because it's a Maori home doesn't make it an unsafe home and that's where we want to make it explicit in the law."

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Fox said she'd "fight for this every day of the week".

When asked how big the issue was, she said, it was personally more important to her than the Kermadecs, which the Maori Party have previously said would force the party to abandon their agreement with National if the sanctuary went ahead.

"I'd walk away from the government over Maori children long before the Kermadecs any day of the week," Fox said.

"If we get to a point where we can no longer agree then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it

"We've already been assimilated and colonised once, we've already had children lost in the state system being sat under double jeopardy for doing nothing wrong, sexually abused, disconnected from their whanau.

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"We can't afford to have a new ministry built that doesn't address those issues and continues to repeat the mistakes of the past," she said.

Both English and Social Development minister Anne Tolley maintain that's it's possible for children to stay connected with their culture without being placed in family care.

They've got support in NZ First leader Winston Peters who agrees there's no place for a "whanau first" approach.

"I've known of too many children thrown from pillar to post between whanau members. I also know of hundreds of Maori who have been massively successful because they were lucky to have relations who would look after them.

"But to apply a blanket whanau-first principle just does not in the circumstances make any sense," Peters said.

History has already resulted in a "stolen generation," said Fox.

"Children who were put into state care immediately went to the bottom of every disparaging statistic in this country. They immediately are more likely to offend, more likely to be in prison, more likely to fall out of education."

"It is true 63 per cent of children in CYF are Maori and 71 per cent of youth in prison are Maori. We are the mainstream - stop building a department that has a Maori issues paper to the side and build it with a kaupapa Maori focus that will make real change for the lives of these children," Fox said.

 - Stuff

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