A 6-year-old cradled her 8-month-old sister, watching a computer on which music played.
Police found them home alone with two other siblings and no readily available food or heating in a dark, dirty house, lit only by the computer screen's glow.
Their mother, Maraea Manu Gage, had left them a bottle of milky tea, thick with sugar and a tea bag.
She had also left them with a toilet blocked with faeces, a bath full of dirty clothes and orders to not open the door to anyone.
Yesterday, Gage, 24, admitted four charges of ill treatment/neglect of a child under 18. The charges have a maximum jail term of 10 years.
She will be sentenced on August 1. The children are not currently in her care.
A police summary of facts said the children were hungry and cold - the 8-month-old was filthy and in desperate need of a nappy change.
No food was in the refrigerator.
Police found a packet of sausages in the freezer and rummaged up a loaf of bread and made toast for the children.
Dirty blankets and empty bourbon and cola cans littered the floor. Two single beds had no linen.
Gage was charged after police knocked on her door and discovered her children on Saturday, May 10.
Officers had been in Gage's street in Raumanga on an "unrelated matter". Initially, the children refused to open the door. One yelled "who is it" before they screamed for their mother.
Police entered through an unlocked back door. A neighbour helped tend and feed the children and change the 8-month-old after no baby-care products or baby food could be found in the house.
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