Duncan Garner: Our child abuse sentences are sickening

OPINION: The last few days have once again thrust our national shame into the spotlight.

Troy Taylor will be heading to prison for killing little Ihaka Stokes, and an Auckland couple - this is disgusting - were found guilty this week for beating, starving and neglecting five children while they sat downstairs and smoked meth.

The sentences in that case were totally pathetic. The partner of the children's father was jailed for just over two years, while the father can now apply for home detention because he received a two-year sentence.

This is all happening as the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children launches this weekend - not a day too soon.

It's got a new name, a new lick of paint - and a bigger job than ever.

But will it make a difference?

I know governments get a lot of criticism, but I think you have to give credit to this Government because they're heavily focused on changing this, which no-one else was, and they're also heavily focused on making sure they get it right this time, after decades of failure.

But what's really worried me for some time is the light sentences around child abuse. They are simply too weak, too often.

Children are our most precious resource in the world and we need to send a much stronger message that this simply will not be tolerated here.

This country's child abuse statistics are some of the worst in the developed world and one of our most shameful records.

This is dear to my heart, it makes me really furious.

On average, a child in New Zealand is killed every five weeks.

Last year I extensively covered the death of baby Moko and that really affected me. It got right under my skin.

We send white collar criminals away for a decent amount of time now but now this man in south Auckland, who oversaw the neglect of five children – young children – while he smoked meth downstairs, can apply for home detention. It is sickening.

This kind of abuse is corrosive, it's ugly, and it's tough to try and change because often you're talking about intergenerational abuse.

You've got to get into these families at a very early stage and I don't think we are.

So, for the sake of our kids, let's hope the new ministry does better.

Duncan Garner hosts The AM Show, 6-9am weekdays on Three, RadioLIVE and newshub.co.nz.