March for a nation’s shame
‘‘Things must change’’ was the emphatic message delivered during Monday morning’s March for Moko. A crowd that swelled to 150, marched around The Square from Coleman Pl to the Main St courthouse in solidarity with other centres across the country. The protest against the manslaughter charge was timed to coincide with the sentencing in the Rotorua High Court of a couple for the killing of 3-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri.
Later that day, his killers Tania Shailer and David Haerewa each received 17-year sentences – the highest ever imposed in New Zealand for the manslaughter of a child.
Organiser Jas Fisher from Levin was pleased and proud of the morning’s turnout.
‘‘This is how we feel as a nation,’’ Jas says. ‘‘ Enough is enough... We have stood up and been prepared to say ‘No!’’’
Mother of two Jennifer Farrell-Taylor read In the Bonds of Love We Meet, a poem she had written for Moko, but also with her 2-yearold niece – who she says was murdered – and the 210 New Zealand children killed since 1992, in mind. It ended with the words: ‘‘A crisis we must not ignore/ We’ve had enough/ Not one child more! Justice for Moko/ Justice for all/ God defend our children’’.
The march attracted a group of student’s and a teacher from Pahiatua’s Tararua College.
‘‘I don’t understand how someone can abuse a child when they can’t do anything about it,’’ says school social science captain, 17-year-old Nathaniel Burnes.
Rangitane kaumatua Wiremu Te Awe Awe, who blessed the march with a prayer, says people have got to stop brushing the issue under the carpet.
‘‘If we know this is happening in families, we must speak out about it.’’
Marcher Alister Cameron drew on the forthcoming Olympics for his perspective: ‘‘New Zealand has a gold medal in abusing and killing children’’.
Following a short vigil outside the courthouse, the group gathered in The Square where they were addressed by an openly emotional city MP Iain Lees-Galloway.
‘‘I look at my kids and I just can’t understand how you can’t look at a child with anything but love, with anything but the strongest desire to protect them.’’
Iain says he was more concerned about how to prevent further deaths than about the punishment Moko’s killers received.
‘‘We need to take that responsibility collectively, ensuring people grow up with the skills and attributes they need to be parents. But we also need to have a system in place that is able to protect our kids.’’
March for Moko organiser Jas Fisher, holding a white pamphlet, leads supporters around The Square to the courthouse on Monday morning while the 3-year-old’s killers were up for sentencing.