Pressure is mounting on the Government to make police vetting mandatory as a scandal involving a paedophile cheerleading coach deepens.
The Children's Commissioner has written to Children's Minister Tracey Martin and Police Minister Stuart Nash calling for an overhaul of child protection laws to keep vulnerable kids safe from sex predators.
Other child advocacy groups are now making similar demands, saying a Herald investigation has revealed "systemic weakness" in our vetting system and serious legal inadequacies.
Former cheerleading coach Nikola Michael Marinovich, 34, a convicted paedophile jailed for abusing underage girls, was able to work on children's TV show What Now and a raft of childrens events as a freelance cameraman after his release from prison because of lax vetting policies.
The Herald also revealed this week that, despite Marinovich's child sex convictions, a Papakura gym owner knowingly hired him to work on six cheerleading events, which was labelled "morally reprehensible" by the sport's governing body.
Marinovich pleaded guilty this week to seven Customs charges relating to the possession, making and distribution of thousands of child abuse images and videos.
He was remanded in custody and will be sentenced next month.
In his letter to Martin, Judge Andrew Becroft said the fact production company Whitebait Media was able to hire Marinovich on What Now, a show funded by NZ On Air, raised concerns that current vetting checks required under the Children's Act "do not go far enough".
The act sets legal minimum standards around vetting for state services and local authorities.
"At the time of the original legislation this was a significant step forward for improved child safety. In my view it is time to review these obligations.
"I would like to see the law extended to make it mandatory for every employee or volunteer of any organisation, club, society or church who works with children to undergo proper safety checks."
Judge Becroft said many voluntary organisation like church youth groups, sports clubs and scouting groups already undertook safety checks for adult volunteers.
This should be part of the DNA of children's services.
"Many parents assume it is already the law."
About 280,000 police vets were currently carried out annually. Extending the law would see those numbers swell by an estimated 300,000.
But this was consistent with recommendations from the Australian Royal Commission into child abuse and likely to receive backing from our own Royal Commission of Inquiry.
In his letter to Nash, Judge Becroft said anyone working with children had a duty of care to ensure their safety.
Vetting obligations should be mandatory and free "to ensure clear practices and child safe policies are in place".
Nash told the Herald he shared the commissioner's concerns. Police vetting was an important element of crime prevention and community safety.
Nash said he'd already asked officials to improve the framework for police vetting services, however any changes would not be introduced before the general election.
Martin said the Herald's story raised issues of concern.
"Obviously we want to keep children safe, but how to do this practically requires some thought.
Doubling the number of annual police checks would impact police, the individuals involved "and ultimately children if people didn't want to go through this process in order to volunteer their time.
"The other very unfortunate reality is that child abuse mainly occurs in the home through family violence and neglect, rather than being done by strangers. That is the real problem we need to tackle."
Safeguarding Children chief Willow Duffy said recent Herald stories showed current legislation had "gaping holes through which predators can easily slip".
Thorough reference checks were also crucial.
"Someone may never have come to the attention of the police, but their behaviours and attitude towards children may be unsafe. Reference checks are crucial to identify people who are not suitable to work with children.
"Children have right to be safe and parents and carers have a right to expect their children to be safe. If any organisation is engaging with children they must make provision to keep those children safe."