Would you call CYF on a hunch?

That’s the question posed by Stacey Kirk

We must all act to help our abused children – because getting outraged afterwards can’t save Moko. That’s why we are calling for a ministerial inquiry to discover how we can do better to protect our most innocent.

It was not just the two people who beat, tortured and eventually killed three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri who knew the little boy was at risk. There were others.

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa committed unimaginably sadistic violence against a toddler. Some of the others who failed him are good people.

This small boy’s seven-year-old sister cried for help, when she told a Womens’ Refuge social worker.

The little girl who felt so responsible for the plight of her brother spoke up, despite one of their carers (now killer) Tania Shailer – a friend of the children’s mother – telling her she’d kill her parents if she said anything.

The other one of Moko’s killers, Shailer’s partner, David Haerewa, is related to notorious child-killer Ben Haerewa, who was jailed in 1999 for killing his four-year-old stepson James Whakaruru in the Hawke’s Bay.

This public culture of not intervening is beyond disgraceful, so here’s the list of people and organisations that we know knew something – there are likely more: 

  • The Maori Women’s Refuge social worker: she followed up the seven-year-old’s claim by ringing Shailer. Shailer lied and blamed Moko’s sister. She said she feared for Moko’s safety once he was back in the hands of his mother.
  • The refuge was aware Shailer herself had escaped from a violent relationship with Haerewa and had returned to that relationship after Haerewa was let out of prison.
  • The same social worker was there when Shailer went in to CYF to say the children were at risk of being exposed to domestic violence.
  • Shailer told CYF she wasn’t coping with Moko, 11 days before his death. CYF denies being told Moko was being hurt.
  • Shailer told a friend Moko had fallen from a woodpile, when his situation was becoming dire. The friend was concerned, but never spoke up when Shailer declined her offer to drive them to the hospital.

At no point did anyone go to see Moko.

But it’s all OK, because some Maori woman is now offended about a cartoon and has laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.


As part of the CYF overhaul, the Government is considering a far more wide-reaching information sharing agreement that would mean a child’s safety – even if they’re not in as imminent danger as Moko was – would trump family privacy. This clearly needs to happen.

An inquiry won’t help Moko. But in pointing to what went wrong this time, and what we can do better, it will save other children’s lives.

As for the rest of us, it’s time to figure out the level of violence we’re comfortable with before actually making a call to CYF.

I hope Tolley has some good ideas.   Because so far nothing has been achieved, and kids keep dying.

I don’t want to even think about the kids that don’t die and make it to a headline.  There have to be a fair few that are living in a hell right now, and nobody cares… enough to make a difference.


– Stacey Kirk, Sunday Star Times


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  • Jimmie

    Some of the problem is the ferrals that do this live in a ghetto of others ferrals who think and do the same.

    There is a culture of silence as those around the offenders are either just as culpable or they simply don’t care.

    When your main fixation in life is where the next tinny or box is coming from why would you care about the screaming brat next door?

    In fact you are quite happy that he/she has been thrown against the wall coz the screams are interrupting you watching your 5 terrabytes of illegal movies all day.

    The evil done to these hapless kids is nothing more than a byproduct of an indolent and wasted existence on the part of the biologicals who gave birth to the kids and are quite content to see them snuffed out as easily as they were created.

    I can’t call them parents or caregivers as they are neither and it is an insult to normal parents of children.

    • Brian Smaller

      What you wrote is harsh but the reality is that most people have no idea how these ferals live unless they have the misfortune to live next door to a feral family. The delivered pizza and all night parties for 2-3 days while the benefit money lasts, then the kids are crying and bawling for the next 3-4 days because they are hungry. This sets the adults off and the fights and yelling start. Cue the cops showing up for the third time that week.

    • The Fat Man

      Better still have you heard how they talk.

      Truly they are so stupid that they think that they are actually smart.


      • Wheninrome

        stupid is correct, otherwise why would you kill off the pay cheque.

        • johnandali

          And if you want to know where a lot of pay cheques go, wander in to the Auckland Casino during a work-day, and wander around the pokies. Construct a demographic of the people you have seen. You’ll be shocked. Look at the amount being gambled each time the button is pushed. And then you’ll start to realise that there is a significant problem in our society. And that’s only the gambling side. Then there’s the alcohol and drug scene……..

  • Cadwallader

    My wife worked as a social worker for the then Social Welfare in the 1980s at their Porirua office. On occasions I met some of her fellow social workers at functions etc. I recall giving one of them, a young pakeha woman a lift into Wellington on one occasion late in the afternoon. The schools were closing and as we drove past a school in Newtown I recall, she made an isolated remark about a young white man walking on the footpath holding a little girl’s hand. From a rational observation it was clearly a dad meeting a daughter, and I said as much; but Oh NO! The guy could easily be a pedo!
    If this attitude was typical of the social welfare’s army of staff at the time, and I believe it was, then the blind indifference to children’s welfare is easy to see. The bigotry displayed was against the young white man. Had this been a young maori man with his daughter it would’ve been seen as unadulterated aroha. For any government agency to function adequately it needs to first be stripped of this swamp of stupid bigotry. If the social workers of today are still drawn from middle class suburbs, funneled through snotty sociology departments at any university in NZ then placed in a role of decision making then nothing will change. It would be better for all concerned if social workers were street educated as those with the Salvation Army routinely are.
    Underscoring this is the reality which maori choose not to confront: The need for social workers etc would be removed if their children were loved and respected.

    • intelligentes candida diva

      The group think has changed!

      In defence of social workers I believe back in the 80s the thinking you refer to was more a societal cloak against while males….just my opinion.
      Such thinking has changed where more fathers are getting the care of their children or it is shared care.

      I think the comment you have made is an example of re-directional blame & another example of society’s ability to undermine the wealth of good work done by statutory social workers who are trying to keep children safe.

      Too often due to systems statutory social workers are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff but maybe it will change with the new legislation.

      • Cadwallader

        The 1980s social work “industry” was rife with staunch feminism and I agree that it may have coloured the products of the sociology departments at the time.
        The Family Court has moved away from the “mother principle” which held that children were always better off with their mothers ahead of their fathers as it was more likely the father would be working. It was not so much a principle for the benefit of the children as it was a reality that men were more likely to hold down full time employment in those days.
        The ambulance at the bottom of the cliff idea is probably true but it requires constant quality control of each and every ambulance.

        • intelligentes candida diva

          It is imperative to have quality control of professionals with authority to act in peoples lives.

          It is my understanding there are a lot of people who call themselves or others refer to them as social workers but they are not.

          Social workers who are registered are compelled to recertify periodically & have core competencies/practice standards they must meet… and there is a push for social work registration to be mandatory…. not sure how that works for Maori Women’s Refuge social workers though.

          • Cadwallader

            My recollections from the 1980s include the birth of much of the jargon used today, as being derived from the social workers of the time…
            “positive outcome”
            “rain check”

            The worst misuse of language at the time has to have been the practice of referring to everyone who came to their knowledge as “clients.” In other contexts a client is a person who engages in commerce and pays for the privilege.

  • Union Jack

    Basically she seems to think that as usual that CYFS are partly to blame and some other people who had fleeting involvement with the family so lets have some more enquiries blah blah.
    Nothing will ever change until all the hand wingers face the unpalatable truth that NZ society contains some primeval savages who should never be allowed to have or look after children.

  • Odd Ball

    In N.S.W. Australia, any teachers, etc are mandatory reporters by law. ie if they think something is not quite right, they are legally compelled to report it to the police, under threat of prosecution.

    • Cadwallader

      The problem in NZ would be; can you trust the wisdom or lack thereof of a schoolteacher? On the rare occasions I speak to teachers these days they exude progressive rhetoric while moaning about their pay. The obligation you refer to in NSW has its merits undoubtedly.

      • LovetoTeach

        You need better teacher stories – stop talking to the dumb ones ;)

        Here in NZ we are also legally compelled to report “stuff” and certainly the wonderful professionals I work with with do. I’m not going to generalise about our whole profession based on the small sample I work with though…

        • Cadwallader

          Good. What happens on the occasions when teachers do report potential home problems? Is there a recognised and worthy process followed and by whom?

          • LovetoTeach

            There is a very simple process- I don’t know whether you could say it’s worthy as that could only be measured by the outcome, which can differ from situation to situation. Teachers talk to their immediate supervisors (eg senior teacher/DP/mentor) concern is noted on file as well as being reported to principal who then makes notification to cyfs if deemed appropriate. Notification is not a given. It depends on what the concern is. Eg if we have a physical concern we might call in the health nurse or get child to the doctor/access medication for the family.

  • taxpayer

    “The same social worker was there when Shailer went in to CYF to say the children were at risk of being exposed to domestic violence.”

    “Shailer told CYF she wasn’t coping with Moko, 11 days before his death. CYF denies being told Moko was being hurt.”

    There is no proof that Shailer went to CYF and told them anything.
    That is simply what she now claims she did.
    Who would you believe, CYF or a child murdering scumbag inventing conversations to try and cover her evil fat backside, and trying to shift some blame away from herself?
    Yes getting outraged will not bring Moko back, but not getting outraged over such a crime is apathetic, indifferent and inhuman.
    Rally Justice for Moko ,Monday June 27th 9am, every court house in the country.

    • One of the problems is that many people who should be outraged by Moko being murdered are instead being outraged by a cartoon.

      • johnandali

        That rings a bell. Where have I come across such things before? Ah yes………. In Paris.

        • Miss Phit

          Tue enough. One could draw lines of similarity between a certain religion of peace and these protectors of the nation.

    • sarah

      The outrage toward CYFS seems a little over the top. Even if everything this Shailer character said she reported as far as CYFS were concerned the mother was currently out of the picture and in a safe environment. They had time to get something together before the return of the mother (of course this would have been reported to cover Shailer from scrutiny). 3 days before Moko’s death CYFS tried contacting Shailer for a follow up meeting

  • Sagacious Blonde

    Your last paragraph says it all. Those killed are probably the lucky ones.
    When I lived in Kahui country, I watched lovely, sunny little girls change almost overnight when ‘uncle’ arrived on parole. The police became regular visitors and the kids were often removed overnight. I eventually got ‘uncle’ recalled to prison because he was dealing drugs (I logged 65 car movements in one day to that house).
    I still feel so sad for those girls. It seemed so hopeless, because eventually he will have served his time.

    • Dave

      Good on you, and admiration for speaking out, that takes courage. My concern remains, what of the family or whanau, what of the parents, they all knew what was going on, or does an adult relative/ whanau member take priority over the safety and welfare of any children?? My point is, whilst what you did was courageous and admirable, where were the family?? It’s not CYFS or any government agencies job to sort these issues in the first place, it’s the whanau’s job, even a solo mum could call the whanau to kick uncle Bullie out, and caution him never to return, or also report him again.

      • Sagacious Blonde

        These kids were living with an aunt, because mum and dad were in prison. There was a teenage boy cousin in the house, who did try to do the best for the kids. He was beaten up so badly by auntie that I didn’t even recognise him when he stumbled to my doorstep.
        I used to have the Community Constable and 0800Truancy numbers in my cellphone. I took photos of kids graffitiing, or just hanging around. The police like number plates, times and photos. My home office had a great view of the cul-de-sac and I wasn’t full-tiime peeping out in paranoia, just curious and methodical.
        Eventually we were driven out when my car windows were smashed one night, and then again four nights later. I was sad, because 95% of the people were decent, honest and hardworking, but being ground down by Mongrels in Housing Corp rentals.

        • Cadwallader

          Poser: Are maori more inclined to be drug dependent than other NZ’ers? If so their violent crime statistics might be explicable in this manner?
          From reading the thoughtful posts here this morning the issue is that maori appear to resort to violence more prevalently than the rest of us??? I don’t know that’s for sure.

          • johnandali

            When I worked in the prison system, efforts were made to teach inmates about anger management. Ferals normally have no anger management techniques at all. If they’re angry about something, they immediately lash out. If the time between incident and response can be increased, it gives the person the opportunity to think about it before lashing out. In theory, anyway.

      • johnandali

        Yes, but we don’t know whether the whanau had been subjected to the same type of upbringing. As similar things had happened to them during their childhood, they probably thought it was normal.

  • intelligentes candida diva

    This is an extremely powerful post and bought a tear to my eye
    Thank you for your frankness on the topic it is too important to be anything less.

    1 Parents or the adult caregiver must be held accountable for building the safety for the child/ren they care for.
    Adults caring for the child need to realise they are in a position of responsibility and privilege. Sad thing is adults lie a lot.

    2. There is a need to address the involvement and the quality of involvement of professionals and the systems within which professionals work. I wonder if the management of funds is time wasting thus costing more through a too short term approval e.g. professionals at the coal face having to continually reapply for funds when that time would be better spent in the field & at the end of the period the result is overall more cost through time spent from repeat requesting for approval. Insufficient caregivers and caregiver not adequately trained or funded.

    3 Inter disciplinary debates about who does what professionally. Needs to be demarcation of responsibility & accountability

    a) Communicate with the child, communicate with the child without the key caregivers,
    b) Communicate with the child’s siblings, & friends

    5. Build safety within the family to help keep kids safe in their homes.

    6. The adults caring for a child must be accountable within society there is too much onus on alleviating their accountability & blaming everyone else.

    7.The focus must be child SAFETY.

  • andrewo

    The root cause:
    We take money from middle class people via taxation and hand it to unmarried, feral scum by way of welfare. The net result is that middle class couples marry late and can’t afford to have children because of the tax burden and the state is forced act as a parent for the abused progeny of the criminal underclass. If you can’t see that this is the road to hell, then you’re blind!
    The solution: Sort out the structure of welfare

    • JLS

      Crikey, I was just going write the very same words. In simple terms Stop paying (encouraging) people to have babies and thereby abdicate and take away their obligation and right to become productive and self respecting individuals. A dependant underclass are unsurprisingly angry and resentful of those who have planned, worked, and succeeded, and it’s those around them who catch it Socialists and liberals seem to like to have them to control and preach to which I think is why they get so rabid about the ones who won’t and can’t be shackled.

      • andrewo

        The current government has made some progress by tightening the DPB and unemployment rules. As a result teenage pregnancy rates are falling and Maori outcomes are improving, despite the horrific cases we see in the press. It’s progress but not anywhere near enough.
        It’s up to these three women: Bennett, Tolley & Kaye. I hope they have a plan!
        This government has been quite smart by feeding the medicine in small, bite sized chunks. One wonders what’s next: It can’t come quick enough for me.

        • JLS

          Absolutely, me too.

  • KGB

    Were Moko’s caregivers/killers paid? It seems unlikely they would have supported them for 2 months without payment.
    Did they qualify as caregivers on ‘whanau is first’ grounds? If so this would explain the usual lack of investigation.
    The Women’s Refuge involved need to be thoroughly invested before they receive any more funding. Something is badly broken there.

    • johnandali

      The whole system needs to be reviewed. Urgently. It obviously doesn’t work. It needs to be fixed. Surely those at the top already know that. And if they already know that, how come nothing has been done? Does the system need a clean-out at the top. Looks like it to me.

  • Huia

    I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help in a situation.
    I have done this twice in my life.
    I was giving a 14year girl a ride home but she didn’t want to get out of the car and go inside where only her step father was at home. She burst into tears and said he was hurting her. I drove off and headed for the Police station, stopped and talked her through what was probably going to happen when we got there and where she would feel safe to live. A friend was a Senior Detective at the time and luckily he was on duty and knew this girl as she attended the same activity group his own daughter did. I sat with her while we waited for her grandparents, woman Police officer and social worker to arrive. When Grandma and Grandad arrived I handed her over as Grandma had felt something had been going on but the girl wouldn’t say what.
    All ended well with girl living with grandparents while step dad was removed from the house. Mum wanted girl back but girl wanted to stay with Grandies which she did.
    The second time was this Christmas when we saw three children being treated terribly by their mother, punching in the head, locking inside a room, punished by not feeding them, (I was feeding them on the sly when this occurred).
    Final straw was one of the children having their head rammed into a wall.
    We couldn’t stand it so called the Police and CYPS, two of the children have gone to live with their father and are in a lovely situation, baby is still with mother under CPYS watchful eye as he is still being breastfed.
    We worry about him all the time.

    • Effluent

      All credit for intervening when necessary.
      I can’t help wondering though, in the circles where the majority of the abuse occurs
      -who knows (and trusts) a police officer well enough to be willing to lay a compliant against a neighbour / friend / family member?

      how likely is it, in these circles, that a member of the immediate family, or even extended family, is sufficiently functional / financially able to be able to take on responsibility for a child, or children, particularly when the children in question may have severe behavioural problems as the result of the abuse they have suffered?

      I know these things do occur in ”white” society’, but they are certainly not ( in my experience) common, condoned, or tolerated; the greater extent of such problems in Maori society is a function of the prevalent cultural norms in parts of that society, and these norms are what need to be changed. In my opinion, the impetus for that change must be provided by the Maori elders, supported as much as they can be, by wider society.

      This won’t happen if they feel that they are condemned by race or external judgement. No-one responds positively to finger wagging, particularly if they have reasn to be sensitive about the causes of the finger wagging.

  • The Fat Man

    The Social Welfare Department did not work.

    Cyfs did not work

    What comes next will not work.

    Once you go down this path it is never ending, it is like asking a turkey to vote for an early Christmas.

    In short I have not seen any evidence that CYFS has actually achieved anything, then it is veiled in a cloak of secrecy, like the Family Court.

    How about some transparency and accountability. Yeah Nah. We want all the power and zero accountability, thank you very much.

    The few cases I have observed CFYS actually just got in the way and made thing worse.

    How about we talk about the people (those who object to a little sunlight) who are actually doing most of the abuse. No it is not racist it is the truth.

    • andrewo

      Lots of research has been done on this topic: With an amazing degree of accuracy we can predict where the problems will arise even before the child is born. But once that child is arrives into those terrible circumstances, the die is cast – no amount of intervention will solve the problem.
      So logically we need to intervene before the birth: dissuade those women from producing a child. I can think of several possibilities here:

      1. Offer cash payments to ‘at risk’ women to accept long term contraception
      2. Require long term contraception in order to to qualify for DPB
      3. Sterilize women who have had a child taken into care because of abuse
      4. Provide incentives for abortion and/or adoption

      • johnandali

        I believe that all people who are on a social welfare benefit should be required to be on a contraception program administered by Winz.

        However, when I read about the poor woman and her daughter who were murdered by her ex and buried under the bridge, together with the fact that they weren’t even listed as missing for something like 9 years after the event, and the ex used her benefit money as it came into her bank account (but we’re not told how long he was able to do that), and the fact that if she was on DPB, how come the alarm bells didn’t ring when the kiddie wasn’t enrolled at a school when she turned 5? So if that’s all due to deficiencies in the Winz system, who could trust them to do anything positive at all, like instituting a decent identity system that would ensure that the person talking to them is in fact the beneficiary, and that the person talking to them doesn’t have ten different aliases, and is claiming 10 benefits each one from a different branch? Or are Winz staff simply typical demoralised lazy public servants who turn up for work in the morning, do their job, collect their pay, and don’t want to rock the boat by making simple suggestions on how to improve the way their organisation works (or doesn’t work)?

  • Annie218

    Child abuse is not a one race problem – it exists across all spectrums of NZ society. How it is ‘disguised’ or ‘covered up’ depends on the ability of usually one or two adults to control and manipulate those around them. Their success relies on other adults doing nothing.
    Maori and the hand wringers are doing what they usually do by once again screaming out the race card in a rush to shut down the debate.
    Maori should be leading a campaign against all child abuse across all races and state that “the abuse of a child is inexcusable and unacceptable in New Zealand”.
    Maori should be calling for mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse. Let the caregiver prove otherwise.
    If one thing can change a child’s life it is for adults in a community to “stop peeking out from behind the net curtain and judging” and offer protection for children.

    • johnandali

      But when you say that Maori should be leading a campaign, exactly what do you mean by the term “Maori”? Do you mean a central Maori organisation? What central Maori organisation would that be? Is there one? I have never heard of one. The Waitangi Tribunal seems to be the only united, unified Maori organisation, and the mistreatment of Maori kids wouldn’t seem to be on their agenda. Maori MPs who are scattered around the party system wouldn’t be interested in a unified Maori welfare organisation, and when you see that leaders of the Maori people are all unelected people whose birthright gives them supreme authority rather than their ability, would they even speak to the leader of another tribe? And don’t forget, there are many thousands of unaffiliated Maoris in South Auckland and Wellington who have totally lost any tribal connection, and who aren’t even recognised by the established tribes, you end up with a real muddle. So when Maoris say they represent Maoris, they only represent their own branch of Maoridom.

      Mind you, I might be wrong. I’d be very happy to change my views if I am wrong.

  • Tinia

    The police have a culture of intervention, usually by way of arresting people. Good cops all have one thing in common – they are driven to catch and arrest bad guys. Without exception (in my experience) this separates good cops from hopeless ones.

    All these kids could be saved, what is letting them down is institutionalised laziness, which invariably leads to incompetence.

    Cypfs need a similar culture to the police. Their staff should be motivated and driven to investigate, and encouraged and rewarded to take kids off parents.

    That should be their core job. If they built a culture around that you simply wouldn’t see these deaths, and Cypfs would be feared and respected. But it won’t ever happen because it’s not politically correct.

    Edit: three words added

    • Union Jack

      Is this a CYFS problem though or more the government giving them the legislative muscle to do this?.
      Not sure myself, just speculating out loud.

      • Tinia

        Doubtless it could be made easier but without that culture I’m talking about there’d be no point. We’ve been waffling about this for decades, it’s time to do something and stop talking, and the do something is routinely removing children. Until and unless we’re prepared for that and for the ensuing problems doing this can cause then this will NEVER get better. Clearly waffle and talk achieves nothing.

    • LovetoTeach

      One of the problems CYFS faces is a lack of places to put the children once they are uplifted- there’s not enough people willing to foster, short or long term. So it’s not as simple as “take them away” – where do we put these poor children?

      • Skydog

        I agree there’s a lack of space. I consider there should be child friendly, secure and safe accommodation where are child can be taken to. At this place they would be cared for, medically examined, fed, clothed etc. I don’t like the word institution but I think you know what I mean. A place where there could be dozens of kids under 5, all safe, all looked after.

        This would prevent the delays in putting a child into placement, keeps the child from the wider family group who are often just as bad as the perpetrators of the violence.

      • anniem

        Maybe it’s time for a modern day “orphanage”? Seems like a retrograde step but would be better than the status quo for many children.
        Of course the beginning should be contraception to stop certain people breeding children they don’t want, don’t need and can’t afford.

        As Miss Phit says above some children are merely a meal ticket, I agree so lets just pay the ferals not to breed. Let’s say 10-20k for a sterilisation? I’m sure there would be a few takers and it has to be cheaper in the long run and no suffering children.

  • JEL51

    Good, the discussion continues…… but…. no inquiry, no extra CYF’s involvement is going to stop the next raised hand.
    It is Us, those right there, that has to act.
    It is not the government, or the social worker or case workers job to be ‘family’.
    You as a father, brother, sister, mother, closest cousin or just the closest friend, of a young mum who is under enormous pressure, to get off the PC couch, step-up and do your duty as a loved-one.
    If it is your son who is in a relationship he is overwhelmed by, can’t cope with or simply does not have the maturity for a relationship to start with, you as a parent has to step-up.
    It is up to us.

  • Miss Phit

    Maybe it is as simple as these parent need to learn how to love their kids.

    • waldopepper

      lol, yeah, good luck with that.

      • Miss Phit

        Unfortunately I think your response is justified. Some people’s kids are nothing more than a meal ticket.

    • old school

      Often these children are simply a source of income from the welfare fund.