22 Jul 2021

Family at centre of custody dispute gets a reprieve after court hui

7:40 pm on 22 July 2021

The family at the centre of a custody dispute that led to a sit-in at a Hawke's Bay marae have been granted a reprieve.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A 17-year-old mother, her nine-month-old baby and iwi leaders have been hunkering down since the Family Court last week ordered custody be given to a distant aunt.

An advocate, Hastings midwife Jean Te Huia, said the order to uplift the child was riddled with accusations the whānau denies, and they were not given a chance to defend themselves.

At a court hui that brought the parties together today, a judge said that the baby should not be taken.

"They basically agreed that baby should stay with mum, with conditions," Te Huia said.

Those conditions were still being determined, but Te Huia said it included continued whānau support.

"I do believe the outcome was great because it allowed for the whānau to have a voice, but there is still a journey to be had."

Te Huia said the parties involved would have further hui to try and resolve the dispute, which she said had come out of the blue for the mother.

"Today is just a temporary reprieve," she said. But she was determined a permanent resolution could be found to try and avoid court.

Te Huia said the case was an example of a system that was broken, where a child could be taken by the Family Court on a whim.

She said she had had several other families come forward with similar stories since the sit-in began and hit headlines last Saturday.

But, for now, there is one whānau who would sleep easier tonight, she said.

"It's been overwhelming for them," she said. "It's been a long week and there seems to be a sense of relief right now.

"There are over 60 whānau members waiting at the marae for an outcome, I'm sure there'll be celebrations and more talk about the processes."