Crown lawyers challenge summons of minister by Waitangi Tribunal

Karen Chhour was being called on to explain her proposed repeal of a section of the Oranga Tamariki Act

Crown lawyers challenge summons of minister by Waitangi Tribunal

Crown lawyers have challenged the Waitangi Tribunal’s summons for Children’s Minister Karen Chhour, reported the NZ Herald.

The lawyers expressed their desire to initiate urgent High Court judicial review proceedings if the minister was called on discuss her proposed repeal of section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act. The tribunal sought a reasoning as why repealing was the recommended course of action over amendment.

Crown lawyers said that forcing a sitting minister to attend or submit a written statement conflicts with authority as well as with constitutional practices and principles. They also expressed concerns that Chhour’s responses could violate Cabinet confidentiality.

If the Crown proceeds to the High Court, a hearing has been set for 26 April, as per a memorandum by Judge Michael Doogan. Doogan urged Chhour to instead voluntarily attend the hearing to provide evidence.

The judge indicated that the hearing must finish before mid-May, when the proposed bill is introduced and the tribunal’s jurisdiction over the matter ends.

The elimination of section 7AA from the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 is part of the coalition agreement between the National and Act parties. This section has been a key legal driver for Oranga Tamariki to bolster the system for Māori, bridge gaps in state care experiences between Māori and non-Māori children, work together with iwi, and ensure that policies and practices reflect principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa, and whanaungatanga.

The Māori Land Court Kaiwhakawā expressed doubts about the Crown counsel's reliance on the “authorities and constitutional principles invoked”, according to a statement published by the Herald. While he recognised the tribunal's authority to summon a minister, he suggested that a more prudent approach would be to invite Chhour to reconsider her position and voluntarily offer evidence.

Ultimately, the judge issued the summons to Chhour, acknowledging the possibility of subsequent High Court proceedings.

Section 7AA was introduced in after the 2015 reform proposals that led to the establishment of Oranga Tamariki. It outlines Oranga Tamariki’s obligations to tamariki and rangatahi Māori, as well as wider whānau, and is the primary legal mechanism recognising the Crown’s responsibility to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi in state care.

The section marked the first mention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the country’s child protection laws.

Recent articles & video

Denham Bramwell promotes new partners

Bostock Group unloads orchards, organic chicken business with Russell McVeagh's help

Māori wards law passes first reading in Parliament

MinterEllisonRuddWatts guides ex-ASX lister on landmark scheme of arrangement deal

Court of Appeal denies lawyer's appeal over unsatisfactory conduct

New legislation to implement roadside drug testing

Most Read Articles

Pre-eminent construction lawyer decodes key contract changes

Court of Appeal denies lawyer's appeal over unsatisfactory conduct

Former law firm co-director jailed for sharing images of child exploitation

Bostock Group unloads orchards, organic chicken business with Russell McVeagh's help