Bay of Plenty Times

Chil­dren are dy­ing need­lessly here in NZ

- Jo Raphael Crime · Society · Incidents · New Zealand · Waihi · Maketu · Stephen Williams

Ne­vaeh Ager was only 2 years old­when­she died. I ex­pect she would have been ex­cit­edly wait­ing for the ar­rival of her baby brother. But she never got to meet him.

Ne­vae­hwas killed while her mother wasin hos­pi­tal giv­ing birth.

Her lit­tle body was found in the tidal flats of the Lit­tle Waihi es­tu­ary in Maketu¯ — killed by her father Aaron Izett, whowashigh on P.

He­was con­victed ear­lier this mon­thof her mur­der.

Her tragic death is the lat­est in a long line of in­cred­i­bly sad and un­ac­cept­able child deaths in­new Zealand.

An­dit doesn’t seemto be a prob­lemweare over­com­ing.

Anin­de­pen­dent Po­lice Com­plaints Author­ity in­ves­ti­ga­tion found po­lice mis­han­dled a 111 call from Ne­vaeh’s great-grand­mother, Niki Sturgess.

She wanted help get­ting her great-grand­child out of the house in Maketu be­cause she­was­con­cerned about Izett’s be­hav­iour.

She­was told po­lice did not have the power to in­ter­vene be­cause she and her hus­band did not have cus­tody of Ne­vaeh.

Po­lice did not send any­one to do awel­fare check at the house.

Ne­vae­hwas found dead the next day in the es­tu­ary, weighted­down with rocks.

Po­lice say they let Ne­vaeh and her fam­ily down.

But her father also let her down. He­was the per­son she should have been able to rely on for pro­tec­tion, com­fort, and nur­tur­ing.

Ne­vaeh’s death has­some sick­en­ing par­al­lels with 6-year-old Coral Bur­rows, whoin 2003was beaten to death and hid­den un­der a bush by her step­fa­ther, Stephen Wil­liams.

He­was also high on P at the time. Wil­liams is­nowserv­ing a life sen­tence in prison.

Chris and Cru Kahui, Nia Glassie, JJ Ruhe-lawrence, Jy­niah Te Awa, Moko­ran­gi­to­heriri.

These are­some of thename­sof chil­dren­whoshould today be grow­ing, liv­ing, thriv­ing.

In­stead, their lives were cut short by vi­o­lence or ne­glect.

Un­in­ten­tional in­jury is the lead­ing cause of death in chil­dren (1— 14 years) in­newzealand; there are about 8.4 un­in­ten­tional in­juryre­lated deaths per 100,000 chil­dren (aged0to 14) an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to the­newzealand Med­i­cal Jour­nal.

In 2016Nzmere­port­ed­new Zealand has the fifth-worst child abuse record out of 31OECD coun­tries and on av­er­age a child is killed here ev­ery five weeks. It’s now2020 and what has changed?

It’s time for aroyal Com­mis­sion of In­quiry. We­need tighter­more ro­bust sys­tems in place to iden­tify vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and fam­i­lies.

The is­sue is a com­pli­cated one — drugs, fam­ily vi­o­lence, poverty are all fac­tors. But it’s onewe­must tackle. Lives of vul­ner­a­ble, in­no­cent chil­dren de­pend on it.

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