Norm Hewitt says the country needs to get serious about dealing with violence against children. Former All Black Norm Hewitt says the death of a Wanganui triplet is like the shock of a "7.8 earthquake" and it's time for New Zealanders to get serious about child abuse.
He is fronting a campaign to get people to have their say on what can be done to reduce the number of children killed and injured by caregivers.
Mr Hewitt's comments follow the death of Hinekawa Topia, a Wanganui triplet who was killed by a head injury police believe was non-accidental.
Members of Hinekawa's extended family are being spoken to by police, who are trying to build a picture of the 2-month-old's movements in the weeks before her death.
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, who lives in Wanganui, said she knew Hinekawa's family and had been in touch with them.
"It's really important that the family be left to get on with sorting out whatever it is that they need to, and it's not helpful for me or anybody else to be commenting," she said.
"The police are very right when they say that people shouldn't begin jumping to conclusions."
Mr Hewitt said he believed New Zealanders cared enough and yesterday urged them to have their say through submissions to the green paper.
The intention of the paper was to open discussions on child protection.
"What do you say - you ask anyone, they will say the same things. This is just crazy. When do we say enough is enough and what are we going to do about it?
"It's not about saying, 'It's a Maori or Pacific issue, they have to sort it out'. When Pike River happened every New Zealander's heart went out to those families. When Christchurch [earthquakes] happened the same thing happened to support the families [and again] when Rena became a world story. Is Hinekawa worth it or not? I say absolutely."
To make progress people needed to "suspend judgment long enough to say 'what can I do?' To me the green paper is saying, when are we going to have those proper conversations?"
Mr Hewitt said natural disaster put things into perspective.
"The earthquake in Christchurch has galvanised the community and brought people together. What kind of tragedy do we need to have before people wake up. Well, to me [Hinekawa's death] is a 7.8 earthquake."
Although details of Hinekawa's life, or the circumstances that led to her death were unknown, he said, her death was a reminder that the country needed to take a look at how so many children were so vulnerable to abuse.
- additional reporting APNZ
HAVE YOUR SAY
Submit online at www.saysomething.org.nz
Mail a submission to Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, PO Box 1556, Wellington 6140