A legend at work and at home
As a senior sergeant he was considered unflappable under pressure. He was assured and controlled, but with a great sense of humour, and was a valued mentor for younger staff.
These were qualities that had already been recognised by 2001 when he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for his work with the Christchurch South Care and Protection Panel, giving a police perspective on strategies for improving child and family welfare, and for his contribution to the Police Association.
His daughter Steph recalls that Mike had declared the award was “a lot of rot”, but when the day came to receive it at Government House in Wellington he was, “like all of us”, obviously very proud.
Mike was born into a farming family in the town of Oxford in Waimakariri and spent his early years in Darfield, where his father worked for the pioneer Deans family. He went to Darfield High School and joined Police in 1965 at the age of 19 and was posted to Christchurch, transferring to Dunedin in 1978 for two years and then back to Christchurch. It was during the early years that his nickname, Eroom (Moore spelt backwards) was cemented.
Bruce Houghton, a former colleague, was one of several officers who began their careers under Mike’s tutelage.
Speaking at his funeral in March, Bruce recalled the hectic pace of the police station watch house – staff congregating at the beginning and end of a shift; interviews taking place; charges being entered; checking on prisoners; and constant chat. “Eroom always appeared unflappable and when the proverbial hit the fan he was a calming influence, which was a huge plus when trying to corral a group of young men with egos and bucket loads of testosterone.”
Another former colleague, Heather Cooper, said Mike’s unruffled demeanour instilled confidence. “He always had things under control and was a strong man in stature and personality.”
These qualities were to the fore during two significant events. In August 1979, a cliff at the Dunedin suburb of Abbotsford gave way, leading to the loss of 69 homes. Heather and Mike were on night shift. The possibility that the area might collapse was well known, and Mike, who held the Civil Defence portfolio, had already prepared a plan for the police response.
“When the station was inundated with calls that night, within minutes, Mike had put the plan into action and the area had been sealed off. Mike had everything under control then, and in the subsequent days,” Heather recalled. No lives were lost in the natural disaster.
A few months later, in November, 237 people were killed when an Air New Zealand plane crashed on Mt Erebus in Antarctica. “Mike was alerted via the teleprinter system. Soon he was dealing with a huge influx of calls from anxious relatives and friends. The magnitude of the disaster remained with him forever.”
In 2009, when the new Christchurch South Police Station was officially opened, special mention was made of Mike who, along with Sergeant Lew Corbett, had lobbied hard for the new building. It was the realisation of a vision dating back to 1993 to have a station on Colombo St – a main thoroughfare, which meant more interaction with public – and with a strong focus on victims of crime, with designated interview rooms not used for offenders, and victim support facilities.
Daughter Steph said that when Mike joined Police, his father had told him he was a country boy who would never make it in the big city, let alone in Police. “How wrong could he have been. We are so proud of Dad and his Police career.”
On one occasion when Mike was in charge at Sydenham, the police station was attacked with a nail bomb. The family – Mike, wife Maureen and their three children – were put under police protection. It was scary for the kids, Steph said. “But, not to fear… Dad had a plan… he set up a booby trap. String with glass bottles tied to it. All went well until our cat set off the trap and woke the entire house. Some of us were so terrified we had to move to our grandparents’ house.”
Also in Sydenham, around 1994, Mike set up what is believed to have been the first community police patrol – now a national organisation active in most cities throughout New Zealand.
Mike was a Police Association pay round negotiator in the 1990s and was seconded to the association to help develop a new appraisal system for Police. He was on the consultative committee that reviewed the Police Act and served on the Police Appointments Review Committee, charged with creating a more transparent process for job selection criteria and appointments.
Mike’s other great love after family and policing was salmon fishing. In later years, he bought a bach at the Rangitata River, north of Timaru, where he taught his sons-in-law and some of his seven grandchildren to fish.
He loved food, wine and a party with friends, Step recalled. “He had a great voice. The more wine, the louder and more booming it got. How we are going to miss that.”
Michael William Moore; June 1, 1946 - March 16, 2022