The number of child abuse complaints referred to Child Youth and Family in Tauranga is falling, but agencies in the area are debating the new figures.
Information released by the Ministry of Social Development to the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act shows 444 children up to the age of 14 suffered emotional abuse, 172 suffered neglect, 149 suffered physical abuse and 29 were sexually abused in the 2013/2014 financial year.
The figures showed the number of critical cases fell during a five-year period.
In the 2009/2010 financial year 226 cases were assessed as critical while in the 2013/14 financial year the number was 181.
A critical rating is applied when a child or young person is identified as having been severely abused or neglected.
Bernadine Mackenzie, deputy chief executive of Child, Youth and Family, said when a concern was expressed to CYF a child or young person may be at risk of abuse or neglect, a notification was recorded. However, not all notifications resulted in further action.
Youth Services contacted by the Bay of Plenty Times questioned the figures, saying they had seen not seen a drop in demand for their services.
Homes of Hope chief executive Hilary Price said the number of children needing help would have risen.
"Year to date to December 2014 we were tracking 33 per cent over contract. The previous three years have seen a consistent overdelivery against contract, so it is a huge challenge for us all."
Homes of Hope provides safe homes for abused children.
"There has been unrelenting pressure on the services to deal with the caseloads," she said. "We need to face facts so we actually get to grips with the problem. There has been a significant increase of the critical cases coming into care. All children in our care have experienced significant trauma and neglect resulting in the need for considerable resources to ensure their needs and recovery is supported."
The impact abuse had on children was "huge", resulting in sometimes life-long trauma.
"Every child which we have had come into care I can guarantee and categorically state has been traumatised by abuse and neglect and as a result delays their ability to develop in a normative continuum of child development."
Tauranga Women's Refuge manager Angela Warren-Clark said she was still seeing a constant flow of families needing care. She suggested the abuse figures might have fallen because low-level cases were no longer being logged but were being referred straight on to other organisations.
Tauranga Living without Violence general manager Mary Beresford-Jones said her service was still dealing with the same number of family-violence incidents.
Tommy Wilson, of Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services in Greerton, said his frontline staff were seeing a greater workload.
Bay of Plenty Sexual Assault Support Services paediatrician Vivienne Hobbs said the number of sexual assault referrals had risen greatly during the last two years for children and adults.