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Revisiting the torture of Moko, and trying to stop this nightmare

Opinion Piece

The inquest into the death of young Moko Rangitoheriri in August 2015 at Taupo, from injuries received during prolonged abuse and torture, has reopened a horrific chapter in a continuing nightmare for New Zealand — in what is a struggle it somehow seems we are unable to win.

The violence inflicted on three-year-old Moko is beyond understanding. His loathsome “carers”, Talia Shailer and David William Haerewa, left him with internal bleeding and septic shock for four days, before Shailer finally called 111. He also suffered a fatal head injury at some stage over these days.

Their penchant for stomping on Moko’s stomach places them at an unimaginable level of bestiality.

The 17-year manslaughter sentence they are serving is not enough for many, although Shailer has clear mental health issues and there was some disputed evidence she tried to get help.

Rotorua coroner Dr Wallace Bain was speaking for the whole country when he said people thought the treatment of another child victim, Nia Glassie, was the worst possible but the treatment of Moko made that look like “kindergarten”.

Moko’s death sparked a series of marches throughout the country, including in Gisborne.

The inquest has been adjourned to allow for more expert evidence, including from Children’s Commissioner Dr Andrew Becroft.

Moko’s killing is linked to the country’s other horrendous social problem, domestic violence.

His mother Nicola Dally Paku made a statement to the court urging others suffering the abuse she had, to walk away and not look back.

Since Moko’s death, CYFS itself has gone into oblivion to be replaced by Oranga Tamariki, the new ministry for vulnerable children, under the watch of Social Development Minister and East Coast MP Anne Tolley.

Tolley and Prime Minister Bill English expressed confidence at the launch of the ministry earlier this year, but the task ahead of it remains massive. A record number of New Zealand children were placed in care last year — 5453 of our most precious citizens.