Oranga Tamariki expanding base

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Oranga Tamariki is expanding its office in Alexandra due to the population increases in Central Otago.

Oranga Tamariki regional manager – lower south, Christine McKenna, said two staff would be added to the office in Alexandra, a site manager and a practice leader.

The new site would be called Central Otago and would cover the surrounding districts including Queenstown, Wanaka, Ranfurly and Roxburgh.

Previously the manager and practice leader for this area were based in Dunedin, she said.

Alexandra had been part of a cluster of rural sites that also included Oamaru, Balclutha and Gore, and were managed remotely from Dunedin.

“Oranga Tamariki believes having a manager based locally will enable our staff to work more collaboratively with our community partners,” Mrs McKenna said.

“This will provide the opportunity for a more collaborative approach across the sector and the ability to work more closely together to support those children and their families that need our support and assistance.

“An increase in staff numbers will provide greater visibility across the vast area of Central Otago and ensure we are better able to serve our communities,” Mrs McKenna said.

Newly appointed site manager Chris Pickering would be starting on February 12.

He would manage about 11 social workers, co-ordinators and administrators, she said.

Mr Pickering and his family would move from Wellington, where he worked at the national office.

“Chris is very keen to get back to working, as we call it, on the front line again, and to be able to support social work staff in the Alexandra office,” Mrs McKenna said.

Chris Pickering will take up his new role as site manager for Central Otago on February 12. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The new site manager for the Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children office in Alexandra sees building relationships with local communities as a priority.

Chris Pickering will take up the new role on February 12 as part of an expansion of the Alexandra office. He will manage around 11 social workers, co-ordinators and administration staff.

He would be moving from Wellington to Alexandra with his partner and “three basset hounds”, he said.

Originally from Manchester, he had lived in New Zealand for around 17 years.

Mr Pickering’s background was as a social worker in the UK, and not long after he arrived in New Zealand he began working for the predecessor of Oranga Tamariki – Child, Youth and Family.

He was in the response teams for two major incidents in New Zealand.

“I was part of the response to the Pike River disaster on the West Coast,” he said.

“I worked very closely with the community in terms of the response there.”

The Christchurch earthquake meant he moved to the city to be part of supporting children and families struggling with the aftermath.

“I worked in Christchurch for a year supporting the recovery from the earthquake, so I went to live there for a year,” he said.

While working for head office, Mr Pickering was part of the Investing in Children Programme, which was tasked with setting up the new ministry, informed by recommendations in the report commissioned by then minister for social development Anne Tolley.

Speaking about some of the adjustments for the new Government, Mr Pickering thought it was around building a system-wide response to children in need and mobilising services for children, young people and families earlier.

“Very much as needs are identified, trying to mobilise services and connect children and family to the services so that they’re addressing those issues in their infancy.”

Building relationships and drawing on local connections would be a focus for him.

“I think it’s really important as a manager to have a strong sense of leadership and visibility in your communities, and recognise that no two communities are the same.

“I’m mindful coming into Central Otago there’s a range of communities that make up the catchment for the Oranga Tamariki Central Otago office.”

The expanded office would encompass a wide area including Queenstown, Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra, Ranfurly and Roxburgh.

One of the challenges was ensuring access to some of the specialised services that were often available only in the bigger areas, Mr Pickering said.

“There’s a number of issues, so it’s not a one size fits all, really, but I think it’s about getting to know the key people in those communities and investing time and effort to know your communities and then build relationships.”

Expanding base . . . The Alexandra office of Oranga Tamariki will be a new hub for Central Otago. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON.

The Government announced an extra $27.4million funding for Oranga Tamariki last Friday, which would be allocated for the availability of care placements, especially for tamariki in emergency situations or with high needs, trialling options for transitions from care to independence for young people, and developing a tool to assist decision-making in the youth justice system. A further $4million was been allocated to further progress the ministry’s new operating model for children.