Iwi leaders sign covenant to protect NZ children

By Heeni Brown
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Iwi leaders have signed a covenant promising to protect the nation's children. The covenant was written by Judge Carolyn Henwood and commits to protecting children from violence, abuse, neglect and to provide a proper standard of living.

Henwood says, "I started finding out the care and protection of children was feeding people into the jails and so, therefore, I realised we needed something right at the beginning to inspire us on a different course. So I thought a national statement would be the way to go to put it right up there by the Treaty, right up there by the Bill of Rights, for all of us as New Zealanders."

Henwood was at the heart of its development and has the backing of all iwi leaders at the forum.

Chairman of Ngāi Tahu, Tā Mark Solomon says, "We all know that there's a huge issue in New Zealand with violence against children, we all know that. But at times what seems to happen is it's not our family it's that family over the road. This covenant pushes into the consciousness of all New Zealand that we have an issue and that we have a duty to protect our children, our future."

New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD Countries. On average one child is killed every five weeks.

Children’s Commissioner, Andrew Beecroft says, "It won't be a magic bullet. Signing a document won't eliminate child abuse, but what it will do is make it crystal clear in everybody's minds who signs it and maybe one hopes to change individual rights to better parenting, better grandparenting, better uncle and aunty involvement, better mentoring and better support our young people."

Meanwhile, political parties have come out in support of the covenant including Labour and the Green Party.