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President's Column: A year on, the hurt endures

On Sunday, March 15, we, as a country, will pause to remember the horrific events on this date last year. So many lives were torn apart by what the Prime Minister called at the time “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence”.

New Zealanders were shocked, stunned, angry and deeply saddened.

We have grieved for and with those who lost loved ones or were themselves injured – physically and/or psychologically. Our elected officials vowed to act and did so with speed, committing immediately to changing firearms laws, and within a week it was impossible for anyone to legally buy the kind of weapons used in the shooting.

As an association, our focus was not just on the gun laws or the wider community affected, but on those who put aside their own concerns and ran towards the scenes of devastation. Our officers have fears just like everyone else, but they swore an oath to protect, and one year ago they fulfilled that oath with distinction.

They relied on their professional training, they acted without emotion or drama and they backed themselves and their colleagues.

This was apparent to all in the actions of our 2019 Bravery Award recipients, Jim Manning and Scott Carmody, who risked their lives to take down the suspect.

All first responders – comms staff, police, ambulance and fire officers, medics and brave members of the public – showed compassion, leadership, dignity and aroha. However, the effects of this tragedy are likely to last their lifetimes.

We have been keeping watch for what happens when the noise fades and the magnitude of the experience presents itself. Our welfare services are designed to kick in well before that happens and will continue for as long as our members need help.

In many ways it is difficult to believe it is already a year since the attacks. The trial of the accused is still three months away from starting, and the report-back of the Royal Commission of Inquiry has been extended from last December till the end of next month.

Essentially, there remains a heavy load on our plates for some time yet, and part of coping with that is to remember the stories of strength, resolve and sacrifice.

Yet we must also answer the hard questions so we can thwart any kind of repeat. There is no single answer: although meaningful gun reform is an essential part of prevention, so too is standing against hatred in all forms.

As association members, I know you have great respect for Canterbury/Tasman director Mike McRandle and field officer Catherine McEvedy. They worked tirelessly on the ground as soon as the attacks unfolded, and they remain available to any member who needs their help.

Previous experience, such as after the deadly 2011 Christchurch earthquake, meant the association quickly realised the magnitude of the mosque attacks. For that, I remain indebted to the professionalism and guidance of Welfare Fund manager Pete Hayes who retires next month. His story makes for a great read in this edition, and it will be obvious to you all why the association will miss him greatly.

Kia kaha, and look out for each other.

 

Chris Cahill

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