There are calls for Oranga Tamariki residences to be shut down following serious allegations about "inappropriate sexual behaviour" towards children in its care.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Earlier today, it was announced that two Oranga Tamariki staff members had been removed from two unnamed residences.

Chief executive Chappie Te Kani has, over the past week, been informed of two allegations involving staff acting inappropriately towards young people.

Te Kani said police were brought in “immediately” after he was notified and were investigating the claims. Oranga Tamariki was also conducting its own investigation.

About five young people were affected with all the alleged incidents having taken place within the last year.

Former police commissioner Mike Bush will take on leadership of all Youth Justice and Care and Protection residences, and “lead a rapid review across all our residences, including our Oranga Tamariki community-based homes”, Te Kani said.

Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers said her team went in for an unannounced visit as was routine under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture agreement.

During the visit, Eivers said her staff talked to a range of people at one residence and it became obvious there was an issue.

It was “serious enough” for her to pick up the phone, call Oranga Tamariki, and advise them of the situation, she told Checkpoint.

Eivers said she could not speak on the allegations as multiples investigations were underway but said it was good that Bush was looking at things across the board.

She told Checkpoint she had advocated in the past for the closure of such facilities as they were not fit-for-purpose and the needs of the child were not met.

Eivers said she would like to see troubled youth in smaller, home-style remand centres or places in the community as they were often very far away from family who could not afford to visit.

“These places are not fit-for-purpose and they need to be closed down. We are strong on that.”

National Urban Māori Authority chairperson Lady Tureiti Moxon has long campaigned for Oranga Tamariki to be dismantled saying its systemically broken.

Moxon told Checkpoint youth committing ram-raids had been “shoved in” such residences but nothing every changed.

She questioned how many reports were needed to show Oranga Tamariki was “systemically broken” and needed to devolved.

“We’ve been saying this for years. Years and years.

“How many more reviews do we need to tell us it’s systemically broken? It’s systemically wrong and it certainly is a pipeline, really, for a lot of our tamariki, our rangatahi, into prison and into mental health institutions and we’ve got to stop it some time.”

Instead of such facilities, Moxon said the answer was within the community.

“Māori should look after our own and we should deal with them in a different way.”

“Māori ways of doing, Māori ways of believing, Māori ways of healing have never really been taken seriously by anybody.”

For the review, Bush would be assisted by Whaea Shannon Pakura, a former chief social worker and member of the Government Ministerial Advisory Board to the Minister for Children.

It was expected the review would take two months, after which the findings would be made public.

Oranga Tamariki did not want to comment.

Published in Radio NZ