By Michael Laws
It was the crime that shocked us all over the festive period. And which sent a shudder through every one of us who have small children.
A five-year-old girl – sleeping in her parents' holiday caravan with her toddler brother – sexually abused and seriously assaulted. That the family are tourists to our country, that they were holidaying in a seemingly secure environment, and that the child was so damaged: we recoiled, as one, at the horror.
It is a horror also borne of empathy. We place ourselves in the same scenario – cleaning up after a day's summer holiday with the kids tucked securely in bed. That could have been our family, our child.
In the days after the attack was reported, most New Zealanders considered the attacker as some combination of mentally disturbed, dangerous and evil. A sick paedophile with an appetite for strangers' children.
We have met such depravity before. Jules Mikus, the killer of Napier six-year-old Teresa Cormack even changed the school transport habits of a generation.
So we were stunned when a Turangi youth was arrested for the burglary and the violent assaults. A 16-year-old Maori kid. It didn't fit our preconception.
And yet it does. Because this has been a week to remind us that the kids of the ferals are growing up. And that they are feral too. And that their entire psyche is concentrated upon not observing society's rules and on attacking all of its most common conventions.
The rise of the feral family is a recent phenomenon in New Zealand. We have always had the dysfunctional but the past generation has given us something harder and altogether more dangerous.
Incredibly our justice system still treats them as if they are the true victims. Cue the extraordinary licence given to the family of the feral charged with the alleged Taupo crime.
His mother, by the way, this past week told media he is "just a suspect", despite his indication of a guilty plea. Yep, that's why he's been remanded in custody since apprehension.
But at least he has district court judge Jocelyn Munro on side. According to press reports, she complimented him on his appearance in court. And she let his mother read a self-absorbed prayer that the boy had written asking God to make him "a man without hate, anger and stress".
Nothing about his alleged victim and asking the Almighty to make her whole again. Or even, better.
Quite why Judge Munro felt compelled to offer a licence that no Pakeha defendant would likely receive, was not explained.
I'm sorry, but I already have a distinct impression of any whanau who raise a child who can commit such an act. And it is not normal. And this despicable act will not have come out of a clear blue sky. They never do. It will have been the almost inevitable consequence of the teen's raising.
But this has been a week for the ferals. The sob story of "Tiny" Hayden Harlem Tewao – the giant basher deported from Australia but pleading that his Maori connections will see him dead before the year is out. Oh, that New Zealand was as direct with the foreign nationals that transgress our law.
Then there were the Maori mamas caught in the act of shoplifting from Countdown Rotorua – their vile actions YouTubed for all the world to see.
And finally the Featherston ferals – a group of kids as young as six – who have been robbing, vandalizing and generally making misery for the inhabitants of the south Wairarapa town. The response of the police? They're trying to reach the kids "holistically".
The sad part about all these images that have beset our New Year is that they are all brown, all Maori. Maybe it is that at times like these, the impressions we receive are more defined for the absence, or diminishing, of the usual news-gathering sources. But there is an antisocial destruct, specifically within Maoridom, that shows no sign of abating.
Interestingly, "Tiny" had some insight into that issue while pondering his trans-Tasman move. He blamed the toleration of Maori gangs within Maori society – the likes of Black Power and the Mongrel Mob. One of the reasons he had left New Zealand was to escape their malign influence.
"You know how it is with us Maoris back home – everyone's well known gang members," he opined. "I can't get away from it if it is family orientated."
I'm sure that's true. Having feral parents does not help. But our society and policies encourage them to breed their next generation. And they show no signs of stopping.
Sunday Star Times, 15th January 2012