At least three separate rallies will take place simultaneously in Hawke's Bay today amid a nationwide mobilisation coinciding with the sentencing of a couple over the death of 3-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri.

Backed by Napier-based Sensible Sentencing, the major Justice for Moko rally will be held outside the Napier Courthouse, starting at 9am, an hour before the scheduled start for the sentencing of David William Haerewa, 43, and Tania Shailer, 26 in the High Court in Rotorua. A similar rally will be staged at the clock tower in Hastings.

Promoters are angered by the Crown's withdrawal of a murder charge, amid the pair pleading guilty on May 2 to a charge of manslaughter, relating to the boy's death a few hours after being admitted critically ill to Taupo Hospital on August 10 last year.

A post-mortem examination was carried out and established that Moko died as a result of "multiple blunt force traumas".


A few hundred metres away from the Napier Courthouse rally today, at the fountain near St John's Cathedral, an expected smaller group will also "remember Moko" at the same time as launching a project aimed at creating a "Child Friendly Napier" in line with a Unicef project now being supported in four other cities throughout the country.

It is promoted by Napier social justice campaigner Pat Magill, who has spent more than a third of his almost 90 years campaigning on such issues through the Napier Pilot City Trust and who advocates improved social equality and less punitive action in the hope of creating a safer society by minimising the underlying factors.

Child Friendly Napier advocate Minnie Ratima, who with Mr Magill took part in last week's Hikoi for Peace from New Plymouth to Parihaka in Taranaki, among 500 people who included New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd and Race Relations Conciliator Dame Susan Devoy, says she wants the gathering by the fountain to remember all those who have suffered as a result of child abuse.

Justice for Moko Napier rally organiser Louise Parsons will at 9.30am read a speech which will be delivered simultaneously at the rallies throughout the country, while 12-year-old St Patrick's School Napier pupil Charlotte Grant will deliver an award-winning speech on child abuse.

There's widespread conjecture over the sentences likely to be imposed in the Rotorua court, but the case is being compared with that of Hawke's Bay man Ben Haerewa after the 1999 death of girlfriend's son James Whakaruru, also aged 3, after repeated assaults at an address in Havelock North.

Haerewa had previously served another term for assaulting the boy.

Ben Haerewa was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter and served almost the full term.