Police are continuing to investigate a violent attack on a physically disabled man, who was knocked unconscious by a pair of teenagers armed with planks of wood.
The callous assault took place on Anzac Day in Ōtangarei and amplified feelings of vulnerability among the region's disabled community, says a prominent Northland disability advocate.
Jonny Wilkinson, chief executive of the Tiaho Trust - Disability A Matter of Perception - a Whangārei-based advocacy organisation, said while he didn't think violent and hate crimes against disabled people were common in Northland or nationwide when they did occur, the ripple effects were severe.
"There is a big impact on people, who can feel vulnerable in the community when they come up against a hate crime like this one where violence is involved."
Whangārei police previously sought witnesses to the aggravated robbery when the physically disabled man, unable to call for help, was assaulted and robbed on April 25.
The man had been travelling on his mobility scooter on the shared pathway near the Jack St and Miro St intersection around midday when two unknown teenage boys approached him, holding planks of wood.
The pair assaulted the man, who was unable to verbally communicate, before knocking him unconscious and stealing the cash from his wallet. He eventually made his way home, sent a text for an ambulance and was taken to hospital.
Police described the "cowardly offenders" as of Māori ethnicity with one taller and slimmer in build than the other and one with a distinctive ginger stripe down the middle of his hair.
It was worrying to see such a cruel act on an already vulnerable person in the community, Wilkinson said.
"When that kind of thing does happen, it really impacts on a disabled individual's independence because they feel that extra vulnerability on top of the vulnerability they already have."
Wilkinson had heard of abhorrent attacks on disabled people abroad but didn't think it was prevalent in New Zealand.
He said bullying was, sadly, an issue for some young disabled school children.
"Maybe disability awareness training in schools could be one way to try to counteract that," Wilkinson said.
On average disabled people were more likely to experience discrimination and disabled people reported having less access to emotional support from others.
Anyone with information about the Anzac Day assault can contact police on 105, quoting file 210426/9966 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.