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Heather Roy's Diary August 25 2006

Heather Roy's Diary August 25 2006

Ceremonies of various kinds have dominated the past week. The death of the Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, her tangi and burial highlighted her popularity and the respect with which she was regarded by New Zealanders of all cultures. The discussions across the country about Dame Te Ata's successor showed a uniting influence in Maoridom and Tuheitia Pakia's coronation was performed with quiet dignity.

Tuesday, the first day of the new parliamentary session, was dedicated to commemorating Dame Te Ata's reign and the usual hurly-burly of party politics was set aside. Wednesday saw the investiture of new Governor General, the Honourable Anand Satyanand, at Parliament with a pomp and circumstance that is rarely seen today but befitting for the nations highest position.

After that, the politics began again in earnest.

Police Recruitment heading the wrong way.

Many will recall that the New Zealand First party came under a lot of pressure prior to the election to declare which of the two largest parties it would support after polling day. No such declaration came but Mr Peters promised not to be seduced by the "baubles of office", by which he meant perk jobs.

Shortly after the election Mr Peters' promise looked somewhat hollow as he accepted the job of Foreign Minister, offered on the proviso that he was outside cabinet. It is unusual for such an important position not to be given space at the cabinet table when important decisions are made. This might be described as all baubles and no office. It certainly confused Mr Peters' own MPs with Doug Woolerton describing New Zealand First as being "more in opposition than National". He has voted with Labour ever since.

Amongst all the derisive laughter New Zealand First could point to the coalition agreement in which they secured a promise from Labour to enlist one thousand extra sworn police and another 250 non-sworn. Unfortunately the latest news on that front has provoked more derision with the revelation that the number of sworn officers declined in the month of July by 34 to 7,525. This is not a good start for a concerted recruitment drive.

The Minister of Police, Annette King, is well used to staffing shortages having previously been Minister of Health. She is also well used to avoiding taking any responsibility for the situation. When a shortage of medical specialists was cited as a problem Ms King was quick to say it was an "operational matter" and the responsibility of the District Health Boards. I always felt that such a response ducked responsibility but the media let it pass. We can be sure that amongst the shortages the Ministerial Spin Units didn't nurse a vacancy for long. One thing is paramount - the police must not be put in the position of having to lower their recruiting standards in order to meet New Zealand First and Labour’s targets just to make them look good. That would be a very foolhardy move.

Minister King has asked for some ideas to help with recruitment, and as we in ACT are ever helpful, here are some of mine. As an aside, I frequently offered assistance with health advice but Ms King as Minister didn't seem to care for it much. In a previous diary I also gave some tips about ways to boost the police numbers and help fill gaps.

Maori Wardens Maori Wardens fulfil a very useful and constructive role in their communities. I saw Maori Wardens in action during my visit to Waitangi and they were present in force at Dame Te Ata's tangi, assisting ably with controlling the crowds at both events. These wardens could and should be given some formal credit for the great work they perform and the respect they have where they are actively engaged in keeping law and order. A formalisation of their role by government would help fill many of the gaps currently existing and assist with the poor recruitment uptake the police are experiencing.

Special Constables Special Constables are another group that could have their role expanded to help in areas where police are struggling with recruitment and retention. Legislation is already in place to allow this to happen. Special Constables can be appointed under Section 192 of the Summary Proceedings Act 1957, and are authorised to protect people with all the powers, duties and responsibilities of a constable.

Write-down of Student Loans Labours great election bribe was to allow graduates to retain the interest free status of their student loans for as long as they stay in the country. It's a bribe that worked - it bought votes, but will not help alleviate recruiting difficulties like those the police are experiencing. A much better scheme would be to target these graduates and allow them to retire debt in return for a period of commitment with the police. This scheme could also be used in other areas of national security, such as our defence force or other professions with recruiting difficulties.

The Malone Scheme 5 Wellington, West Coast and Taranaki Battalion Group counts amongst its battle honours the fight for Chunuk Bair during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915. Chunuk Bair is a peak on Gallipoli peninsula that was a "commanding height" during the campaign. It was briefly taken by the Wellingtons (the Wellington Infantry Battalion) in an operation designed to break out of the peninsula. Unfortunately, the tactical significance of Chunuk Bair was also appreciated by the Turkish leader, Kemal Ataturk, who personally led the counter-attack which recaptured the position.

The Wellington Battalion was led by Colonel William Malone who was killed, along with most of his battalion, defending the hill. He appreciated the importance of the position and defended it resolutely. Malone also distinguished himself in an unmilitary way by disobeying an order to attack in daylight. Colonel Malone refused, as he knew such a manoeuvre would be suicidal. A citizen soldier rather than a regular army man, Malone was a competent officer and was not willing to lead his men in a hopeless attack. He said his battalion would take Chunuk Bair at night.

Thus Malone is honoured as a brave commander and as an advocate for his men.

The army runs a scheme - The Malone Scheme - in his honour. Up to 15 young men and women each year are assisted financially through university in return for a period of territorial service when they graduate.

The Police could also run such a scheme. There is certainly no shortage of police officers who have served with distinction or been awarded for bravery and would be worthy of bearing the name of a scheme like the Malone scheme. Amongst the many worthy contenders is Sergeant Stewart Graeme Guthrie.

Sergeant Guthrie was killed on 13 November 1990 at Aramoana, after David Gray ran amok with a firearm killing 12 people and wounded many more. The sole duty officer at Port Chalmers Police Station, Sergeant Guthrie went immediately to the resort. On arriving, he met another police constable, and both of them (now armed) went after the gunman. They finally located him inside his house, whereupon the constable took position at the front of the house whilst Sergeant Guthrie took position at the rear of the property; the more dangerous of the two positions. During this time, Sergeant Guthrie had kept his control fully informed of the latest situation.

The gunman then left the house by the front entrance and went towards the police constable. When challenged by this officer, the gunman retreated back into the house. Meanwhile, Sergeant Guthrie had taken cover in a cottage next to the gunman's house. Suddenly the gunman appeared out of the rear of the house. Sergeant Guthrie challenged the gunman, and fired a shot into the air. The gunman responded by firing a series of shots, which killed Sergeant Guthrie.

Remembering Sergeant Guthrie, by introducing a police scholarship in his name, would be an honour both to the man who gave his life for the force and for the recipients.

ENDS

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