Minister for Children Tracey Martin is clearly out of her depth after admitting she’s not aware of high profile cases of children who are being abused, National’s Children spokesperson Alfred Ngaro says.
“Today in Question Time, I asked the Minister about two cases which featured in the news last week. One of those cases involved a lawyer calling Oranga Tamariki in February to report a father kicking his son in the head which the Ministry still has not acted on.
“But Mrs Martin today said she knew nothing about either case in spite of them featuring prominently in the media.
“It beggars belief that the Minister in charge and her office have not had this flagged to them since it was in the news six days ago. Her job is to protect vulnerable children and she needs to start paying more attention.
“I have contacted the lawyers involved in both cases to clarify the facts and yet the Minister in charge doesn’t even know that they happened.
“Tracey Martin clearly has no idea what’s going on in her own Ministry and where vulnerable children are at risk, that’s simply not good enough.
“The Prime Minister said this Government would put children at the centre of everything it does. That hasn’t been the case for these children.”
Minister for Children Tracey Martin has some work to do to mend fences with those who are well-placed to help New Zealand children in need of foster care, National’s spokesperson for Children Alfred Ngaro says.
“There are 6,000 of our most vulnerable children in care - 70 per cent of whom are Māori. Where possible, they should be with family and whanau if they are the right people to care for them.
“But the recent TradeMe classified debacle shows that Government hadn’t even bothered to talk to Maori to ensure it attracts the best foster carers to help these children lead better lives.
“Iwi are being told to be part of the solution in finding safe and appropriate homes for these children, but the Government isn’t even bothering to work with them.
“Not only will they not engage with iwi on supporting these children but Oranga Tamariki didn’t even bother to take down the ad and address the community’s concerns for a day and a half – that’s not good enough.
“Claims by the CEO of Oranga Tamariki, Grainne Moss, that they acted immediately to take down the information are wrong - it took much longer than that.
“The Minister must now find a way to repair the broken relationship with the Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Ruanui iwi and other concerned iwi after this botched attempt to find foster homes, and the subsequent misleading information.
“Ms Moss claims that Oranga Tamariki has learnt from the mistake. It’s all very well to learn from your mistakes, but not at the expense of a young child looking for a stable environment.
“These children need the best carers and this Government needs to make that happen.”
A scathing report from one of Labour’s union backers following the Government’s decision to pull funding from child support services shows just how egregious the decision is, National’s spokesperson for Children, Alfred Ngaro says.
“Shockwaves are continuing to ripple through communities and interest groups following this week’s announcement from the Government that it will no longer fund the Stand children’s camps in Roxburgh and Otaki, effectively forcing their closure,” Mr Ngaro says.
“Stand needed just $3 million dollars to keep these villages afloat and minister Tracey Martin should have this available in her discretionary fund.
“As the Public Services Association (PSA) points out, this lack of commitment ‘sends a signal that provision of funding for vital services to ensure the well-being of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children, families and whānau needs to be monitored and protected more closely.’
“The community, the Mayors, the unions, and the children rallied to save Stand, but the Government hasn’t listened, and has instead prioritised diplomats over children.
“That extraordinary prioritisation has left 63 people without jobs and 380 traumatised children without a specialised treatment facility.
“The kids at these camps are the most vulnerable in society - they have had sexual, emotional, and physical violence committed against them and the Stand Children’s villages were designed to provide them with the love and support they need to get them back to place of peace.
“I agree with PSA organiser Margaret Takoko that ‘to say the least this is a disappointing result at several levels’, she also reminded us that ‘the loss of these life changing residential programmes … cannot have anything but a negative impact’.
“It is my hope that today, Budget Day, the Government does something to rectify this appalling mistake,” Mr Ngaro says.
The Government’s decision to leave the fate of 380 traumatised children to chance, despite pleas from the community, is a failure of government, leadership, and priorities National’s spokesperson for Children Alfred Ngaro says.
“The Stand children’s camps in Roxburgh and Otaki needed just $3 million to keep running but, instead of acting on her so-called commitment to children, the Prime Minister has chosen to give Winston Peters an eye-watering $1 billion to fritter away on pet foreign affairs projects.
“That extraordinary prioritisation has left 63 people without jobs and 380 traumatised children without a specialised treatment facility.
“The Stand children’s camps are the only agency in Otago that provide intensive residential, wrap-around services for children who have experienced severe trauma.
“Their doors will now be closed, and it’s unknown what will happen to the kids who need this kind of wrap-around support.
“The Government has let down the most vulnerable in our society, despite repeated calls from the National Party, local Mayors, and the community to save the programme.
“For a Prime Minister who has staked her political capital on ending child poverty the position that this Government is taking on this issue is shameful,” Mr Ngaro says.
National’s spokesperson for children Alfred Ngaro is deeply disappointed the Government is refusing to step in and support a vital children’s facility in central Otago to save it from closure.
“The Stand children’s camp in Roxburgh is facing closure unless it receives the $3 million funding boost it needs to keep providing support to the 380 traumatised children that pass through its centre each year,” Mr Ngaro says.
“National has repeatedly called on the Government to step in.
Our local MP Jacqui Dean has made several attempts to speak to the Children’s Minister, Tracey Martin, but has been rebuffed. After a personal approach to the Minister, Jacqui came away with the confirmation that the Minister has no real concern for vulnerable children – despite that being one of the core responsibilities of her role.
“Local Mayors have met with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Tracey Martin but their pleas have also been rejected.
“For a Prime Minister who has staked her political capital on ending child poverty the position that this Government is taking on this issue is extraordinary. The Stand camps are one of the best examples we have of operations that go right to the heart of helping the children most in need.
“The National-led Government invested an extra $1.5 million into Children’s Health Camps in 2009 to help continue this essential trauma-focused treatment service.
“We again call on the Prime Minister to get involved and take a pragmatic approach with Stand to ensure these camps continue, but also to keep a close eye on costs to ensure Stand can keep operating within its financial parameters.
“I hope the Prime Minister walks her talk and gives the organisation the financial support it needs by its Tuesday deadline,” Mr Ngaro says.
The rate of Pacific youth offending more than halved over National’s time in government proving that National had the right plans and policies in place to improve the lives of Pasifika, National’s Pacific People’s Spokesperson Alfred Ngaro says.
“This week we learned that the rate of Pacific youth offending decreased by a significant 61 per cent between 2009/10 and 2016/17.
“This follows the release of NCEA results showing that the number of Pacific students who achieved NCEA Level 2 had improved from just 50 per cent in 2008 to 81 percent last year.
“We know that a lack of education can lead to a young person offending so it’s no surprise that as Pacific student achievement goes up, Pacific youth offending goes down.
“But we also know that National’s focus on youth offending has made a real difference. Our targeted approach to reducing youth crime included the Youth Crime Action Plan, the Social Investment approach, Better Public Service targets and the Pasifika Court.
“There is still more to do, but with a 61 percent reduction in Pacific youth crime, it’s clear that what National was doing was working and we were on the right track.
“National’s concern is that we now have an Ardern-Peters Government that wants to move away from our targeted approach and go soft on crime.
“Pasifika have made big gains in the last decade and we cannot afford to put this all at risk. The Government needs to look at what was working and to continue where National left off.”
National’s spokesperson for Pacific Peoples, Alfred Ngaro, says the very real progress being made by Pacific students is being put at risk by the Government backing away from using a targeted approach to their education.
“We’ve been making great strides in Pacific education,” Mr Ngaro.
“For the first time since NCEA was introduced, the results for Pacific students and Pakeha students are just about on par.
“I’d like to offer my sincere congratulations to these students and their families for the hard work they’ve put in to lift their achievement levels.
“These results have been supported by the targeted approach National asked the education sector to take to help lift student achievement.
“In 2008, Pacific students were achieving just 50 per cent at NCEA level 2, and since we introduced National standards and Better Public Service targets, that figure rose to 81 per cent.
“I’m now incredibly concerned at the approach Labour Minister of Education Chris Hipkins is taking to the sector.
“Mr Hipkins has scrapped National standards and the partnership school model.
“We believe replacing the decile system with one that invests where there is student disadvantage should be a priority.
“I’m also concerned about the fact the Government won’t confirm whether it will support key initiatives to help young Pasifika students.
“Mr Hipkins is looking to get rid of targets, get rid of standards and, in doing so, diminish the potential of success for Pacific People in New Zealand.
“Education policy should be driven by evidence, not ideology. The results achieved by students in the last few years demonstrate that National’s pragmatism was the right way forward in achieving better outcomes.
“Pacific people deserve better, New Zealand deserves better,” Mr Ngaro says.
The Prime Minister has announced with much fanfare that she is dialling back on her child poverty targets, National’s spokesperson for Children, Alfred Ngaro says.
“Jacinda Ardern has announced that she intends to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 70,000 over three years,” Mr Ngaro says.
“But in an interview she gave during the election campaign in September, Jacinda Ardern said that she was committed to lifting 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020.
“This is an extraordinary back-track from her pre-election promise.
“We don’t believe that a reduction of 70,000 children in poverty is anywhere near as ambitious as it could be given the previously-announced Families Package – which was a rebadge of National’s package – is likely to impact the lives of 64,000 kids.
“So essentially she’s saying her Government is only going to raise another 6,000 in this term of Parliament.
“During the campaign, National committed to lifting 100,000 children out of low income households by 2020 through the introduction of a second income package to build on the 50,000 children our first package would have helped.
“It should also be noted that it was the National Government that raised benefits for the first time in 40 years and the impact of that increase is yet to be seen in the numbers. Jacinda Ardern’s pet policy is wholly reliant on the economic management and evidence-driven initiatives of the National Government.
“We’re continuing to fight hard for any future legislation around reducing child poverty to have some real teeth to it.
“National has lodged three Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs) seeking to force the Government to be more ambitious with its targets, measures, and evidence.
“We supported the Prime Minister’s Bill to select committee but have always said that our ongoing support would depend on the Government agreeing to make changes that will ensure it measurably improves deprivation.
“I look forward to discussing these SOPs as they come in front of the Social Services and Community select committee and I hope the Government agrees to allow an increase in the report-back time and for the public to be able to give feedback on our proposed changes,” Mr Ngaro says.
National has today lodged three Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs) seeking to give some teeth to the proposed law to reduce child poverty, Children’s spokesperson Alfred Ngaro says.
“In its current form the Bill simply codifies the actions National was already taking to reduce child poverty. The SOPs have been designed to take the next step in that journey, and to force the Government to be more ambitious with its targets, measures, and evidence.
“We supported the Bill to select committee but have always said that our ongoing support would depend on the Government agreeing to make changes that will ensure it measurably improves deprivation.
“The first SOP asks the Minister responsible, Jacinda Ardern, to ensure there is regular reporting of outcomes around a selected number of child poverty-related indicators such as household material conditions, educational development, health and safety.
“The second SOP asks the Minister to set a target to reduce the number of children in material hardship by 100,000 in three years – just as she committed to during the election campaign. This was a target National had committed to with support from initiatives such as the Family Incomes Package last year.
“The final SOP requires all Budget initiatives or proposals with an impact on child poverty reduction to take into account the principles of the Social Investment approach. This could include subjecting any proposals to a cost benefit analysis and a Social Investment Analytical Layer (SIAL).
“This will ensure data and evidence is a cornerstone of the decision-making around investing in, and funding, initiatives to reduce child poverty, rather than just encouraging Labour’s habit of throwing money at a problem.
“In the spirit of bipartisanship, National has three times sought to discuss our concerns with the Prime Minister about the Bill, as well as our proposed solutions.
“I look forward to discussing these SOPs as they come in front of the Social Services and Community select committee and I hope the Government makes good on its commitment to remove the politics from child poverty and supports these proposals,” Mr Ngaro says.
The new Minister of Health is displaying an appalling lack of responsibility by walking away from an outbreak of mumps in Auckland during the Rugby League World Cup, and the consequent spread into the Pacific Islands, National’s Dr Shane Reti and Alfred Ngaro say.
Associate Spokesperson for Health, Dr Reti and Pacific Peoples Spokesperson Alfred Ngaro are concerned at the current outbreak that is affecting several hundred Aucklanders – especially young Pasifika people – and the likelihood Pacific Island players and officials that were here during the recent tournament may have been exposed.
When asked whether he will take responsibility for mumps caught by the Pacific Island players in Auckland during the tournament, David Clark said “individual countries are responsible for their own immunisation programmes”.
“The Minister seems to be saying he doesn’t care if visitors from the Pacific take mumps back to vulnerable people when they return home,” Dr Reti says.
“There are currently 1,600 recorded cases in Tonga. Is the Minister saying that the complications of this disease such as deafness, sterility and meningitis don’t matter in Pacific Island people?”
New Zealand will provide $1 billion in aid to the Pacific in the three years ending next June, much of it aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of people in the Pacific Islands.
Mr Ngaro says it’s unclear whether the Minister has even placed a phone call to the Tongan Ministry of Health to offer any assistance.
“I think New Zealanders would expect our Government to help prevent the spread of diseases the Pacific Islands – especially if they are driven by an outbreak in New Zealand.
“The Minister could call his Tongan counterpart, offer passenger arrivals and departures information and maybe even look at how we might help their vaccination programme.
“With a new aid triennium being planned we’re calling on the Government to place the necessary funding to support vaccination programmes for our near neighbours,” Mr Ngaro says.
“New Zealanders enjoyed the vibrancy the Tongan rugby league team brought to our shores - now let’s meet our responsibilities for keeping them safe and well.”
“The Minister stood and acknowledged the visiting Pacific Island delegation in Parliament yesterday, now he needs to stand up and acknowledge some responsibility to them for mumps caught in New Zealand,” Mr Ngaro says.