The community of Ngaruawahia says there is outrage and fear that their town may be stigmatised by the death of a toddler there.
Six-month-old Serenity Jay Scott-Dinnington died on April 28 in Auckland's Starship Hospital from injuries described by police as being non-accidental.
Provisional post-mortem results showed the toddler, who lived in her Ngaruawahia home with her mother Chelsea Scott and her fiance Mathew Ellery, as well as her uncle Drew Scott, died from traumatic brain injuries.
Yesterday, about 100 people rallied at a hui in the Ngaruawahia community hall in response to child abuse. The hui was organised by one of Serenity's former neighbours, a woman who wanted to be known only as Sheree. She told the Herald she was heartened by the response to the hui.
Ngaruawahia local Mamae Takerei said credit was due to Sheree, who said her fence had been targeted by vandals, labelling her a "nark" for speaking out against child abuse.
"But the majority of the people here are Maori and we have a community at large who are very, very concerned about what has happened," said Ms Takerei.
"It is clearly stated that what happened is a reflection on us and could become a stigma on the Ngaruawahia community."
Another local Wini Scott said news of Serenity's death was "gut wrenching".
She hoped people in her town, which she described as tight-knit, would show courage to knock on their neighbours' doors if they thought something was not right. "The neighbours were saying they heard the baby cry. If that was me, I would have gone and knocked on the door. I would have got abused but, hey, it might have stopped somebody."
Waikato District Commander superintendent Win Van Der Velde said the investigation into the toddler's death was "progressing well" but he would not say if arrests were imminent.
It is understood Serenity's funeral is to be held today in Tauranga.By James Ihaka Email James