Beef up Well Child Tamariki Ora to fight child neglect - Children's Commissioner

Fixing New Zealand's horrific child abuse statistics won't necessarily require reinventing the wheel, says Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft.

The spotlight is on abuse once again after coroner Wallace Bain delivered stinging criticism of New Zealand's child care system in his report into the death of three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri.

Moko died in August 2015 after weeks of abuse and neglect at the hands of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa. The pair were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 17 years behind bars, and lost an appeal against the sentence - the longest ever issued for the manslaughter of a child.

In his report, Mr Bain recommended "all children from birth be compulsory registered with Government agencies and health providers and other voluntary organisations, and that they be compulsory monitored through to and including the age of five".

It's the same recommendation he made 10 years ago following the death of Rotorua girl Nia Glassie.

Mr Becroft says New Zealand already has a system in place - Well Child Tamariki Ora - that for some reason, isn't quite catching everyone in its net.

"That's got a 91 percent coverage rate - the real issue is why we're missing that 9 percent," he said on The AM Show on Thursday.

"Rather than reinvent the wheel, we could beef up that system, extend that coverage, deepen what it does, and that delivers... exactly what is called for in this report."

Between 2007 and 2015, 94 more Kiwis aged 14 and under were killed - one every five weeks. Most were under five years old, and 90 percent of them knew the people who killed them.

Mr Becroft says it's linked with our poor records on domestic violence and child poverty to make a "series of pretty dark figures" about what it's like growing up in New Zealand - despite what efforts have already been made.

"Of the 10 or 12 recommendations, nine or 10 of them have been implemented - it's just this issue probably about the compulsory registration and checking that remains unaddressed. What we desperately need is a system that identifies the children that most need the help and provides that support and monitoring.

"In [Moko's case], there were at least three community groups and some Government agencies already in the home, so the eyes and ears were there... After there's a system that ensures that we don't miss the children, is it a high quality system that won't miss the signs? Because that was one of the issues here."

Moko Rangitoheriri
Moko Rangitoheriri. Photo credit: File

The Ministry for Children says it's up to the Government to impose compulsory monitoring of children.  Chief executive Glynis Sandland says the ministry has already made changes, particular around the way it communicates with other agencies.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday Kiwi kids "should have much better than they have now".

"I've read elements of this report and there are multiple points where this child was failed, many. There are recommendations in this report that we really need to consider - it is about action though, so it's about what we do next to make sure that we are supporting our social workers and ultimately that we change the system."