Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki v Rehi [2019] NZFC 5518

Published 02 October 2020

Parenting and guardianship order — relocation — care and protection — tamariki Māori — welfare and best interests — natural justice — Care of Children Act 2004 — Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, ss 78 & 139. This was an application for parenting and guardianship orders for a child in favour of the child's grandmother. The mother had been deported from Australia having served a prison sentence there, but the authorities had not known that she was pregnant at the time of deportation. The child was born in New Zealand and subsequently, due to the circumstances, a custody order in favour of Oranga Tamariki (OT) had been granted. The maternal grandmother, who lived in Australia, sought a discharge of the custody order and sought parenting and additional guardianship orders in her favour. OT opposed the application based on the grandmother's care and protection history in both Australia and New Zealand, and because it was Ministry policy to not relocate children in their care to Australia when the children do not have Australian citizenship. The Court noted that it was not prepared to consider the grandmother's care and protection history in Australia as a ground for declining relocation. This was because OT was in possession of the information from Australian authorities on the basis that it would not disclose that information to third parties, but it would be a breach of natural justice to use that information against the grandmother where she had no specific knowledge of what was asserted against her and no chance to answer to it. The Court noted that the grandmother had been involved in the community in Australia and was state-approved to work with children. Lawyer for child supported the relocation on behalf of the child. The Court noted too that it was considering Care of Children Act and Oranga Tamariki Act applications, shortly after the Oranga Tamariki changes came into effect. The Court in particular noted that recognition of the child as tamariki Māori was of particular importance, and that a child could be placed with whānau where possible. The child was currently in the care of Māori caregivers organised through the local marae, but they were from a different iwi. The Court determined that it was in the child's welfare and best interests to be in the care of her grandmother. A final parenting order for the child to be in the day-to-day care of the grandmother in Australia was granted, with twice-yearly visits to her mother in New Zealand. Judgment Date: 15 July 2019. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *