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Environment Select Committee Hearing

3 September 2021

Select Committee Zoom presentation by Janet Mason on behalf of Ruiha Collier and Rihari Dargaville to the Environment Select Committee on the Natural and Built Environments exposure draft Bill.
The 5 minute presentation by Janet is followed by a presentation by Francis Goulton.

Te Ao Pepi

The State, through CYFS, has and continues to interfere and destroy whānau connections across Aotearoa, by taking pēpi from their mothers, and their whanau. Te Ao Pepi is a group advocating for immediate action to ensure not one more baby is taken by the State.


The widely publicised attempted uplift of a newborn baby from his 19 year old mother by Oranga Tamariki ("OT") early 2019 (“the Hastings Case”) caused outrage amongst the public in general, and within Māoridom specifically. Much of the commentary highlighted the manner in which Māori had been treated, and the abuse of power and racist treatment regularly dished out to Māori mothers, their pēpi, Tamariki and whānau. The racism was, and is systemic.  

Because of the Firm’s instrumental role in the Hastings Case from the outset, the Hastings Documentary and a number of tragic without notice child uplifts, instructions were received from Māori leadership to look into what was causing the tremendous inequities in the numbers of Māori children being uplifted and taken into State care, in an effort to bring about transformational change.

call 0800 AoPepi

We have set up a free phone line for those who want to talk to us about any ongoing abuse of power and taking of pēpi from their mothers, and their whanau.


Call 0800 AoPepi to talk to one of our lawyers who will assist you.

baby image - newsfeed_edited.jpg

We raised this issue to be heard and reported on by the Waitangi Tribunal. ​Our case was led and supported by a group of District Māori Councils, Nga Maia Maori Midwives, and other prominent members of the Māori community, including Ngahiwi Tomoana, the late Des Ratima, Maanu Paul, Raymond Hall, Titewhai Harawira, Rihari Dargaville, Diane Black, Jean Te Huia, Ripeka Ormsby, Tunuiarangi MacLean, Cr Henare O’keefe, Cr Jacoby Poulain and others.

All our stories were put before the Waitangi Tribunal during 2020 and culminated in the production of a final report of the Tribunal and played an important part of the complex jigsaw puzzle that had to be put together to properly present and analyse hard evidence surrounding the tragic plight of vulnerable Maori mothers and their newborn babies under the toxic and suppressive OT regime that was in place within NZ at that time.   


Phoenix Law was the only firm that went out and gathered actual hard evidence from Mothers as the core of its case – as it firmly believed that only by telling the harrowing stories from such a multitude of vulnerable mothers that the Government recognised the magnitude of the issue as one not being isolated to a few fringe examples, and that change was made.


Our work in this area led to no less than 5 inquiries into the treatment of children and whanau by Oranga Tamariki (“OT”), and led to the eventual resignation of the OT CEO.

Not one more child will be uplifted and we will intervene at all costs.
Ngahiwi Tomoana: (9 May 2019)

We acknowledge the leadership of Ngahiwi Tomoana,  paramount Chief of Ngati Kahungunu, who was the first Iwi leader to speak out about the actions of the Ministry of Children in their attempts to uplift Pepi M at the Hastings Hospital; and the only Iwi leader to give evidence at the Tribunal on behalf of the Claimants.

We acknowledge the bravery of those involved in the Hastings Uplift, including; the Hastings Mother and Grandmother, and their whanau; Mr. Des Ratima; the midwife, Mrs. Ripeka Ormsby; Journalist, Ms. Melanie Reid; Councillor Henare O’Keefe; and Ngahiwi Tomoana, Chair of Ngati Kahungunu Iwi; along with the support of Professor Mark Henaghan. We also acknowledge the principled and scrupulous work of the Children’s Commissioner, the Ombudsman, and the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency Committee of Dames and Knights. Finally, we acknowledge the bravery of all those mothers and grandmothers who have lost their
Tamariki and Mokopuna, and who took the time and effort, and went through the pain of telling their stories, and giving evidence so that future generations of Tamariki Māori may be spared the brutality they have had to endure.


Kia Kaha, Kia Māia, Kia Manawanui.


Our pēpi, our mothers, and our whānau deserve better.

Image by Andy Chilton

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011

When the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 was repealed, it was replaced with the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 (“the MACA Act”). The MACA Act allows Māori whānau, hapū and iwi to go to the High Court to have their customary rights recognised. However, there was a deadline in the MACA Act for filing applications. That deadline was the 3rd of April 2017. Prominent Māori leader and kaumatua, Mr Maanu Paul, also the Chairperson of the Mataatua District Māori Council and a member of the New Zealand Māori Council filed with the High Court on this day, a significant “All of Aotearoa” claim for customary rights to Aotearoa’s Takutai Moana. Partly his reason for doing this was that any Māori groups who have customary rights but were not able to apply to the High Court by the due date may still have an avenue to seek their customary rights, by joining this application.

In a recent 25 July decision, the High Court Judge who is responsible for hearing all MACA applications has given Mr Paul one month, until the 22nd of August, to identify which whānau, hapū and iwi are going to join this claim, and what geographic area of Aotearoa the application relates to. In light of this, Mr Paul is letting those whānau, hapū or iwi who may not have been able to get an application to the High Court, but now want to have a claim, to come forward and join his “All of Aotearoa” claim.

If you are interested, please contact Janet Mason of Phoenix Law in Wellington by texting 027-5269282 or emailing or visit the website:

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