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Boy’s link to whānau, hapū and iwi important, judge rules in granting grandmother contact

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A young boy’s ongoing relationship with his grandmother was vital to maintaining his links to whānau, hapū, and iwi the Family Court ruled in granting her contact. Photo / NZME

Preserving a young boy’s relationship with his whānau, hapū and iwi relied on him staying connected with his grandmother, a Family Court judge has ruled in granting her contact.

The boy had lived with his grandmother after being removed from his mother’s care and his father was in jail, but later returned to live with his mother.

His grandmother sought an order from the Family Court to define the contact she could have, claiming there had been only minimal visits during the seven months after he was taken from her care. She wanted her rights to see him established.

The six-year-old had been under the care of Oranga Tamariki since just after his birth and is the subject of care and protection orders that provide for him to be in the custody of the Chief Executive, who is an additional guardian.

After living with his mother, the boy was then placed with caregivers before moving into the custody of his grandmother in January 2020.

He stayed with her until March 2021 when he returned to live with his mother, which had been decided at a family group conference.

The boy’s father remains in prison but is about to be released.

His grandmother initially sought an injunction to stop him being taken from her care but later withdrew the application to avoid his return to his mother not happening.

She had only three access visits and fortnightly video calls after he had been placed back with his mother.

Orders were sought through the Oranga Tamariki Act to provide access to her grandson, including fortnightly weekend visits, extended on public holidays to include the Monday, access on his birthday and on Christmas Day, and time during the school holidays.

She also indicated that while she hoped that access between her grandson and his father could occur, overseen by her, she would await social work approval.

A social worker believed movement of the boy between the households had the potential to destabilise him.

She did recognise the boy’s grandmother was the second most important person in his life and the value of maintaining what was described as an affectionate, loving relationship without creating instability.

Lawyer Greg Webster, appearing for the boy, said the child thoroughly enjoyed the monthly contact he had with his grandmother and the activities they did in their limited time together.

The boy wanted to see her more often, for longer and to have sleepovers at her home, Webster said.

The Oranga Tamariki Act states the wellbeing of a child or young person must be at the centre of decision making that affects that child or young person.

In his decision released this week, Judge Simon Maude acknowledged the grandmother’s importance in maintaining the boy’s link – and relationship – with his paternal whānau, hapū and iwi.

“[The child] wants more time with his grandmother with whom he lived for a period of some 14 months and who he feels connected to and who provided him with safety from his parents when they could not provide for such safety.”

He said the boy’s mother had turned a corner, and was supported in her recovery by Oranga Tamariki, and there was a strong need for her role as caregiver/mother to be supported and not undermined.

His grandmother also recognised it was important the boy’s relationship with his mother be prioritised.

Judge Maude ruled the grandmother could have a weekend, Friday to Sunday, visit with her grandson once a month, spend three nights and four days with him each school holidays, and have fortnightly video or phone calls with him.

He said the boy’s father had access to order applications before the court and it was not for him to decide.

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