Hundreds of people across the Ashburton District stood in silence for three minutes yesterday as part of a national protest against child abuse.
At 12 minutes past midday, people left their places of work, parked their cars, came out of their homes in every corner of New Zealand, to send a clear message to abusive parents that the ordinary New Zealander has had enough.
The three minutes' silence was organsied by lobby groups Family First NZ, the Sensible Sentencing Trust and For the Sake of Our Children Trust.
The three minutes represented the three years of the life of Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie who died last week from injuries allegedly inflicted by members of her extended family.
The time of day was chosen as it signified the 12 children who die from child abuse each year in New Zealand.
In Ashburton schools and pre-schools also encouraged students to take part in the national protest.
For the Sake of Our Children spokeswoman Christine Rankin said the nationwide vigil had been a success.
Child abusers needed to be given harsher jail terms and prohibited from ever raising children again, she said.
"If they have (more children) they should be taken away immediately — remove the child as soon as it's born."
Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar agreed with the call for tougher penalties for child abuse.
"We know deterrent sentences work; they've worked in seatbelts and they've worked in speeding, they'll work here as well."
He said he believed an urgent bill to increase jail terms for child abusers would appear before parliament shortly.
Family First spokesman Bob McCoskrie said organisers deliberately planned the protest to be as simple as possible, so that wherever people were they could take a moment to reflect on how they could make a difference to the child abuse problem.
"Let's face it — the three minutes was a symbolic gesture, but it was really designed to change the mindsets of people, from pointing the finger and 'Who's to blame?' to 'How can I be part of the solution?'"