Garner on Moko and how to prevent others from the same fate

As you will know 3-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri was brutally beaten and tortured and left to die in the hallway of his caregivers’ home in Taupo last year.

Moko’s mother Nicola was in Auckland caring for a seriously sick child at Starship children’s hospital, who required several operations during a two-month stay.

Her young son was in and out of intensive care – she slept in his room on the ward.

The violence towards Moko took place over two weeks, it may have been longer.

Imagine how frightening it would have been. He had no voice and no way to escape. His incredibly brave sister risked her own safety trying to help her little brother. But a child is no match for adult monsters.

Moko was denied any medical care. It would have been like a real life horror movie – except it was real.

He was dying over a period of days and no adult in the house bothered to get him care. They went out of their way to make sure he didn’t actually.

They barely got him a glass of water. He couldn’t be saved.

I’ve been overwhelmed with public feedback after my interview with Moko’s mum this week. People are rightly horrified that this could happen in our country.

Business owners, mums and dads and some well-known New Zealanders have approached me and asked what they can do to stop this.

I didn’t know what to say except spread the message that this must stop and that violence and abuse towards children, or indeed anyone, is unacceptable.

But we must demand that something happens. And it starts with parenting.

Because only parents can truly and honestly love a child in my view. The state or government can’t see through walls into people’s homes.

But there will always be bad parents. So we must intervene in these families early.

We need someone to teach love. Short of stopping these people breeding, we need to teach them what the generations before have failed to do.

If the cycle is not broken it will continue.

This means getting in early and living with them. Like a surrogate third parent. It’s expensive and time consuming and hard – but it will save lives.

And they also need just one leader within these families to stop the violence. Much like the sober driver system, we need families to nominate the leader within.

I have faith in Moko’s mum, Nicola. I have got to know her over the past 10 days. She needs her other two children back from Child, Youth and Family care now.

It’s a shame CYF and other agencies and whanau weren’t there to take them when it was absolutely vital. But that was then and this is now.

People have been largely supportive and sympathetic towards Nicola.

I want people to know she found the courage to leave her marriage to a Black Power gang leader.

Nicola only discovered he was in a gang on their wedding night – when he pulled his patch out from under the bed.

She was regularly beaten before summoning the strength to grab her kids and flee from that lifestyle.

Nicola has a background in education and is gaining a business qualification.

She’s only 27. She has a full life ahead of her. We can’t give up on her. I bet she goes on to be a great mum and achieve great things. I know she will.

Her lawyer, a friend of 15 years, and Shine, the domestic abuse agency, have total faith in her and her parenting.

I will never, ever forget sitting with her and doing that interview. The pain in the room could be felt and seen by all of us.

But as grim as the whole situation is, I sense some good will come of this.

There may be less abuse, there may be more reporting of violence and somewhere, someone, will be saved.

The level of violence can be reduced if we all step up.

And I hope coroner Wallace Bain makes some stinging recommendations in his inquiry into this death.

Thirteen children were killed last year in New Zealand. It’s our national shame.

We can’t bring Moko back – but we can save others. Please don’t give up and say it’s all too hard, or it’s not happening in my street so it’s none of my business.

This has to be everyone’s business.

I wish I knew the answer.  In the end I subscribe to the belief that in society you have the full range of people.  And sadly that includes those that think nothing of treating a child like Moko… I was going to say, like an animal.  But I suspect that it wouldn’t even be as good as that.

There are two problems.  One, is that the people who do these sorts of things already exist now.  And they aren’t likely to change.

The other problem is how we prevent more kids growing up into people that would treat children like Moko.

It’s the same as the poverty trap, but with much more obvious and extreme results.

Like Duncan, I don’t see how marching down the street is going to save the next Moko.  If it was that easy, we’d all be out there getting rained on.

In the end, I think Stuart Nash had a part of the solution.  Once you take the life of a child, or torture, rape or otherwise abuse a child, you have broken your contract with society.  Your life is forfeit in exchange.  We may not have the death penalty, but you’ll be caged.  Allowed out one hour a day, and fed bland food and water that will sustain you for the rest of your life.   Perhaps every cell has a strong hook in the ceiling, and a coil of strong rope.

I’m not sure it will prevent another Moko, but at least we would have an eye for an eye.  Society needs life for a life under these circumstances.  It is the only way the ledger can be balanced.


– Duncan Garner, NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.