14 Dec 2020

Hoani Lambert discusses leaving Oranga Tamariki role

From Checkpoint, 6:08 pm on 14 December 2020

Hoani Lambert has resigned from his role as deputy chief executive of Oranga Tamariki, but he says it is not in protest of his chief executive.

The head of Oranga Tamariki, Grainne Moss, has come under fire for her role in uplifting Māori babies from their whānau.

She fronted media on Monday evening after appearing before the Waitangi Tribunal facing questions over whether her deputy resigned because of her.

Lambert said Grainne Moss has not played a part in his departure from his role. "I'm a professional public servant, I've been with Oranga Tamariki for four years. Another opportunity presented itself with the Department of Internal Affairs and I was lucky enough to secure that role."

He said Moss is up to the job as chief executive and he thinks she showed that at the Waitangi Tribunal today. 

"We were essentially being asked to try and transform a system... that was seriously suboptimal in the first place. What you saw in Hastings was absolutely unacceptable, however, that was the organisation that we inherited."

Moss has tried her very best with the system they inherited, he said. 

"I think we need to make sure that we have leaders in the public service who are able to discharge the responsibilities of those departments," he said.

"I'm Māori, Grainne is not. I don't think that I am capable of running this agency."

Lambert said he might be able to lead such an agency in 10 years' time but it is not something he could do right now. 

"I think it's very much about the individual skills of the people... I don't have te reo, I've been colonised as a lot of Māori have, so that's a journey that I need to work on myself.

"But being Māori I do think is an important attribute, but I don't think can be the sole attribute for such an important role as this one."

He said he does not think the environment for Māori in senior leadership in the public service is hostile, but it is challenging. 

"I think you're asked to walk in two worlds. That is the nature of the Treaty partnership. 

"Each public servant, Māori, brings with them their own history of colonisation, urbanisation, and always trying to work to see how they can walk in those two worlds."

He thinks Oranga Tamariki is doing a good job. 

"I can say that on the basis of the work I've seen my team do, the relationships they've built with iwi."