As he sits by the hospital bedside of his baby boy, grieving the loss of half of his young family after an alleged drunk driver hit their car, Henare Hadfield's mind is clear.

"I've got to forgive him to be able to move on, to be able to do the best for my son ... me grieving over him ain't gonna change nothing, but I just pray that he learns off it, that the nation learns off this ... stop drink driving, think before you act.

"From now on I'm going to do whatever it takes because the day after my car crash happened, a number of people passed in another car crash, and then the next day after that [too]. I want to see a change in New Zealand.

"I don't want to see this any more. I don't want to see broken families like mine. I don't want to see solo dads like me, losing their families."

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It has been the worst week on New Zealand roads in 16 years; 26 people have been killed between last Saturday and yesterday.

The Kaiwaka family was driving back from a tangi north of Wellsford last Saturday when a 19-year-old man allegedly crashed head on into their vehicle. He has been charged with two counts of driving with excess breath alcohol causing death and one charge of failing to stop at the scene of a fatal crash.

Hadfield's fiancee Janiah Fairburn, 20, and his daughter Azarliyah, 2, died. Their 14-month-old son Te Tairawhiti suffered a fractured neck and was rushed to Starship hospital.

Henare Hadfield and his partner Janiah Fairburn with their children Azarliyah, right, and Te Tairawhiti. Janiah and Azarliyah were killed in a crash on State Highway 1 in Northland. Photo / Supplied
Henare Hadfield and his partner Janiah Fairburn with their children Azarliyah, right, and Te Tairawhiti. Janiah and Azarliyah were killed in a crash on State Highway 1 in Northland. Photo / Supplied

Hadfield, who has a punctured lung, puncture wounds to one leg and several broken ribs, was released from hospital this week.

While doctors had told the 20-year-old his son would make a full recovery, Te Tairawhiti faced a long journey. He had battled for his life for six days.

The halo brace keeping the baby's neck still must remain on for six months, Hadfield said.

He was not sure how long his son would stay in hospital, but described him as "the strongest fighter I've ever seen".

"It's a miracle he's still here ... the doctors said he wasn't supposed to make it. He's an amazing boy."

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For six days after the crash, Te Tairawhiti's "whole body wasn't even functioning".

"He wasn't saying anything and just yesterday [Thursday] he confirmed to me he's okay because he said this word that he always says: 'Mum and Dad', and after that he just started speaking baby words to me, and because I'm his dad I can understand ... asking for food, to be picked up.

"He just wanted love and to know he was safe and that's exactly what we provided for him, because that's what I'm here for."

He replied with the words he would keep telling his son, Hadfield said.

"I love you son, you're going to be okay, everything's going to be all right. I'm here for you, we're here for each other. I'll never leave your side — I'm here forever."

Henare Hadfield, who lost his fiancee and daughter in a head on crash last week which also injured himself and his son, has pleaded with Kiwis to take more care on our roads. Photo / Dean Purcell
Henare Hadfield, who lost his fiancee and daughter in a head on crash last week which also injured himself and his son, has pleaded with Kiwis to take more care on our roads. Photo / Dean Purcell

One day he would tell Te Tairawhiti about all he had lost — his "blessed" older sister who he did everything with, and the mum who loved him so much.

"I'll let him know she was the best mum in the world, she was the best partner in the world. She changed my life, and I'll tell him that."

Azarliyah, whose name is tattooed down the side of her dad's arm, had changed his life even more, Hadfield said.

Just like the little boy who will one day learn about the precious pair whose lives so briefly criss-crossed with his.

"She softened my heart. I started trying to change for them ... life got clearer. Sad to say it all just slipped out of my hands."

Hadfield, who was driving, remembered everything about the crash and its aftermath.

"It happened so fast. Lights, scream, bang. I couldn't breathe. I thought I was dying."

Behind him, he could hear Te Tairawhiti screaming, but he couldn't move to comfort him.

"I just knew that he was still alive."

The last time more than 26 people died in a seven-day period was April 2003, a Ministry of Transport spokesman said. The most since records began in the mid-1980s was 31 in a week.

"The last week has been a tragedy," Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said.

"One of the most heartbreaking things is how many young people lost their lives."

Henare Hadfield, who was driving, says he remembers everything about the crash that killed Janiah Fairburn and daughter Azarliyah Hadfield.
Henare Hadfield, who was driving, says he remembers everything about the crash that killed Janiah Fairburn and daughter Azarliyah Hadfield.

Three babies were among the victims, and several children and teenagers also died.

It is a year since Genter set a goal of reducing road deaths to zero and outlined plans to spend more on safety infrastructure and lower speed limits.

Asked what had been done so far, she said median barriers, side barriers and rumble strips had been installed on the most dangerous rural highways.

Another $1.4 billion will be spent on upgrading highway black spots and local roads over the next three years.

"It will take time," Genter said. "We need a sustained commitment across engineering, enforcement and education to see a substantial decrease in deaths and serious injuries.

"This is a multi-year project which New Zealand is embarking on. It will be worth it. We know it can be done. And we can't tolerate this number of deaths on our roads."

Three of this week's fatal crashes involved motorcycles.

Among the Government's proposed safety changes are minimum standards for vehicles, in particular motorbikes, as new technology becomes available.

Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Transport proposed compulsory anti-locking brakes for all new motorbikes from November. ABS brakes, which reduce stopping distance and wheel lock, could reduce motorbike accidents by 30 per cent.

"People make mistakes," Genter said.

"The key thing is to make sure the environment in which they make those mistakes is more forgiving so they walk away from a crash when it happens."

In the most deadly crash this week, near Taupō, some of the five people killed were not wearing seatbelts.

Genter said the Government was targeting areas and groups which were found to be less likely to wear seatbelts. These included young Māori men in rural areas like the East Coast.

So far this year, 110 people have died on New Zealand roads. That is on par with last year's toll, which was the worst in nearly a decade.