The parents of a 10-year-old girl who lost both arms in a bus crash say the sentence for the driver is an insult.

Bus driver Liang Fang, 32, was on Tuesday sentenced to 200 hours' community service and ordered to pay $6000 to the young victim and $3000 to another woman who lost her arm.

The girl's father told the Weekend Herald the sentence was unfair - and says he was only told about it in an email from police.

"The pain and trauma that we are going through is unimaginable. It is worst for Joanna, but the whole family - myself, my wife and even her grandparents in China - are living every day in pain," said the father, who cannot be named as his daughter has statutory name suppression.

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The parents say they are living in pain after the crash; the tour bus and trailer tipped on to its side and skidded for about 40m. Photo / Alex Burton
The parents say they are living in pain after the crash; the tour bus and trailer tipped on to its side and skidded for about 40m. Photo / Alex Burton

"I feel that New Zealand's justice system has failed us. The reparation payment adds insult to injury and the penalty faced by the driver shows there is no justice."

The girl's mother remembers vividly the day of the crash, on January 21. The Awing Travel NZ Ltd bus and trailer tipped to its side and skidded for about 40m after Fang lost control near Queenstown.

Twenty-three people were on board, including the driver, and 20 were treated for injuries by St John staff at Wilson Bay, on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd.

"(My daughter) was on the ground and I rushed to her. My mind went blank when I picked her up and noticed that she didn't have her arms," the mother said.

One of the first photos taken after the tour bus crashed at Wilson Bay on January 21. Photo / Supplied
One of the first photos taken after the tour bus crashed at Wilson Bay on January 21. Photo / Supplied

The girl was flown to Dunedin Hospital in a serious condition.

When the Weekend Herald visited the Auckland serviced apartment where the family is staying, the child was afraid to come out of her bedroom.

The mother said her daughter's confidence and sense of security were shattered and the once-extroverted girl was now afraid of seeing people.

"(She) loves dancing, she's won many prizes in dancing competitions, now she can't feed herself, dress herself or even clean herself after a bathroom visit," she said.

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The mother said the little girl enjoyed and excelled in Latin dancing, where the moves required repeated swinging of the arms with clenched fists.

Still from a video taken on the bus by a passenger two minutes before the crash. Photo / Supplied
Still from a video taken on the bus by a passenger two minutes before the crash. Photo / Supplied

"Dancing is the love of her life, and in that one moment of the crash, everything is taken away from her," she added.

"The reparation money, I'll gladly give back every cent and fork out many times that, if (my daughter) can get her arms back."

The family chose New Zealand for their holiday because the little girl wanted to come here after hearing from friends who had been here on study tours.

The couple left their other child, a 1-year-old baby, in the care of the mother's parents in Shenzhen.

The father told the Weekend Herald that his daughter required multiple surgeries and double amputation of both her arms, and is going through rehabilitation in Auckland.

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"She started attending school and was slowly starting to regain some confidence again, but then the Covid-19 lockdown started," he said.

Now he said their days were spent mainly going to see medical professionals, psychiatrists and the Auckland Artificial Limb Centre where the girl's prosthetic arms are being made.

The parents believe their daughter will be better off with a fresh start in NZ. Photo / Alex Burton
The parents believe their daughter will be better off with a fresh start in NZ. Photo / Alex Burton

The family are now exploring whether they can stay in New Zealand permanently.

The father said medical and psychological evaluations suggested it was in his daughter's best interests to remain here, rather than return to China.

"It will give her a chance of a fresh start and also acceptance. She cannot bring herself to meet anyone who knows the old (her) back in China," he said.

They are in the process of seeking immigration and legal advice on available options. The father said their priority was obtaining stability and certainty for the girl's future.

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"(Her) needs ongoing artificial limb adjustments as she grows, and I believe the support she will get in New Zealand will be better than China," he said.

"After what has happened, we feel that (her) welfare and wishes are paramount. We owe her that. We pray every day for her to be healed."

Fang had earlier admitted to charges of careless driving causing injury to the girl and two others.

Immigration New Zealand border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg said the family were in New Zealand on visitor visas, which would expire on July 18.

She said there was no specific pathway to residency for people who had been injured while in New Zealand.

"(The father) will need to apply for a further visa for him and his daughter if they wish to remain in New Zealand," Hogg said.

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"(He) can apply for the visa best fits their situation. Any application would be considered against the relevant immigration instructions for that visa type."

The others in the group have returned to China.

Fang's application for a discharge without conviction was declined by Judge John Strettell in the Queenstown District Court. Fang was also disqualified from driving for nine months.