March for Moko: Family 'felt the love' as thousands gather

An uncle of three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri said he "felt the love" as thousands of Kiwis joined a nationwide march for the child who died at the hands of his caregivers.

Marches were held from Kerikeri to Dunedin today.

In Whangarei, about 1500 people of all ages gathered outside the Haven Falls Funeral Home and marched to Laurie Hall Park, chanting "Not One Child More".

Among the marchers was a brother of Moko's mum, Anthony Paki, who said he could "feel the love".

"It's massive. My sister would have been impressed, she sent her love up and her support not only for Moko but for 'It's not OK'."

Taupo toddler Moko died after being kicked, slapped, stomped on and bitten over several weeks by Tania Shailer and David Haerewa, who had been entrusted to care for him.

Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri. Photo / Supplied
Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri. Photo / Supplied

The pair had originally been charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a charge downgrade which sparked outrage.

Mr Paki, who lives in Waipu, said his nephew was "always smiling".

"He was really bubbly, always smiling. If you look at photos of all three of my nephews and nieces they're all smiling. They come from a loving family. He was bubbly and cheeky."

Mr Paki said his family had been keeping a low profile but he felt today was a day that "we must stand up" against child abuse and against domestic violence.

"We need to stop the thought of raising a hand but obviously it's a problem that can't be fixed overnight," he said.

Crowds have gathered outside Whangarei's Haven Falls Funeral home to support the March for Moko. Photo / Supplied
Crowds have gathered outside Whangarei's Haven Falls Funeral home to support the March for Moko. Photo / Supplied

In Auckland, the city's busiest street, Queen St, was closed as hundreds marched from Aotea Square down to the Viaduct wearing blue clothing and holding pink and blue balloons.

Signs reading "enough is enough" and "stop child abuse" were held up.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern addressed the crowd and said change needed to be made in regards to attitudes towards family violence.

"What we're here for today is to call for that change."

Miss Ardern said there needed to be a different approach from Child, Youth and Family to tackling family violence.

"Child youth and Family has a huge number of social workers who do a very hard job, but we have to look at what we can do differently."

Maori Party MP Marama Fox said stopping family violence started in the home.

"Our whole nation has taken the lives of our children for too long."

Mother Janelle Rewa was among those marching and said she felt helpless hearing Moko's tragic story.

"I cried afterwards while putting my 2 year old to bed.

"I just had to do something."

In Papamoa, about 200 people met at Parton Rd Community Kindy.

Centre manager Haylee Dumbar said the kindy and local community wanted to show their support for the nationwide march, another of which was being held in Tauranga tomorrow.

"We have a lot of families coming through our centre who are not happy at the level of domestic and child abuse in our country."

In Hamilton, organiser Katrina Williams said she was pleased with the turn-out of the city's march, which started outside Child Matters in the central city, and she hoped it would become an annual event.

The Hamilton mother said the reason she got involved was because there were too many people talking about it at work and in the community, but noone was doing anything about it.

"It's about taking a personal responsibility."

A group of mothers from around the country, who didn't previously know each other, took up the challenge of marching after broadcaster Duncan Garner's article "Who will march for Moko?", and decided to create a forum for change.

Branding themselves ASK - Angels Saving Kids - they urge people to "ask" if they have concerns for a family or child, and that people who need help will ask for it.

- NZ Herald

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