The uncle of 3-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri says he felt the love from the hundreds of Northlanders who rallied together in a march against child abuse following his "bubbly" nephew's death.
About 1500 people of all ages from throughout Northland gathered outside Whangarei's Haven Falls Funeral Home and marched to Laurie Hall Park yesterday to support the March for Moko carrying the cry "Not One Child More".
Among the marchers was Moko's uncle, 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. 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," he said.
Mr Paki said his family had been keeping a low profile but he felt yesterday 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.
Phil Paikea, Whangarei's March for Moko co-ordinator and White Ribbon ambassador, said he was "overwhelmed" by yesterday's turnout.
"It (Moko's death) was the last straw and the injuries he suffered. Anthony was telling me some of it was so graphic they couldn't put it on TV."
Mr Paikea said yesterday's march, which was one of several marches held throughout the country, wasn't a march for the sake of marching, it was about talking about domestic violence and child abuse.
"It's a bit like the seatbelt campaign, some people are still driving around without their seatbelts. Do we stop talking about it? No," he said.
Meanwhile, about 200 people gathered in Kerikeri to support the nationwide March for Moko and a march was also held in Kaikohe.