24 Apr 2024

High Court overturns Waitangi Tribunal summons to Minister for Children Karen Chhour

9:11 pm on 24 April 2024
ACT party MP Karen Chhour

Minister for Children Karen Chhour. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The High Court has overturned a summons by the Waitangi Tribunal to Minister for Children Karen Chhour.

The minister was due to give evidence at the tribunal on Friday regarding the government's plans to repeal section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act - but that will no longer go ahead.

In his decision Justice Andru Isac said the mana of the tribunal or the importance of its work was not diminished by the decision.

Justice Andru Isac

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Crown Law said Chhour planned to introduce the repeal bill to Parliament in mid-May, at which point the tribunal would no longer have jurisdiction to consider the Bill.

Section 7AA legally binds Oranga Tamariki to improve outcomes for tamariki Māori and demonstrate adherence to Treaty principles.

Crown lawyers filed papers with the High Court late last week in a bid to block the order and the hearing kicked off on Monday at 10am.

The Crown claimed the Tribunal had acted in an unlawful and coercive manner, despite having the authority to summons the minister.

It also described the summons as "unorthodox and unprecedented", and Oranga Tamariki officials had already provided enough evidence to the Tribunal.

Barrister Matanuku Mahuika

Barrister Matanuku Mahuika at this week's hearing. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Lawyers representing Tribunal claimants told the court the minister had consistently refused to provide evidence in person or via affidavit.

They also pointed out that no public consultation on the planned repeal had been conducted and the reasoning behind the planned repeal was based on anecdotal information.

Evidence submitted to the Tribunal included a draft Cabinet paper and advice provided to the minister by Oranga Tamariki.

The minister was advised the repeal would draw strong reaction from Māori and there was no robust evidence to prove section 7AA had directly caused the safety and wellbeing of tamariki in state care to be compromised.

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