Ten Questions with...
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- Congratulations on the Police portfolio. What are your aspirations for policing in New Zealand in the coming term?
It’s an absolute privilege to serve as Minister of Police. First and foremost, the job is about supporting Police to keep people safe. Longer term, I want to tackle the root causes of crime and the cycle of offending – particularly the reoffending rates for Māori and Pacific peoples. A big part of that will be supporting work already under way and continuing to improve diversity within Police.
- Where did you grow up and did anything in your background influence your view of police?
I grew up in Ponsonby in Auckland, and I think we had a very healthy regard for police. My family was active in human rights issues and the campaign for nuclear disarmament, and I’ve been particularly interested in the impact of the dawn raids on the Pacific community.
- You were the second person of Cook Islands descent to be elected to Parliament (in 2013). What did that mean to you, and have you missed not being able to travel to the islands?
It’s been a year since I was last in the Cook Islands and I miss it hugely – the food, the heat and just how laid back it is. The community back home and here in Aotearoa New Zealand has been so supportive of me and we just want to see more Pacific people getting the sorts of opportunities to make a difference that I have had.
- You completed your tertiary education in Australia. What was the reason for studying there?
I did my Master of Business Administration through Southern Cross University in New South Wales, but my classes were at the Manukau Institute of Technology (at the same time as Steve Price from the Warriors!). I did my graduation in Australia, and that was a great experience.
- How do you see delivery of the Government’s promised 1800 extra police officers playing out this term?
I’m strongly committed to seeing that through.
- Has former Police Minister Stuart Nash given you any advice?
Stuart is a great colleague, and very generous with his advice. His best suggestion so far has been to enjoy the role – it’s a great role.
- Part of your background is in community and mental health and you’ve also been an advocate on family harm issues, both areas that take up a lot of police time. How do you think your experience will inform your work as minister?
What I bring is a focus on victims. Police play an important role supporting people and putting crime prevention first. It’s often hard to see past the crime, but we shouldn’t just see people as the offence – we should also see the circumstances that brought them there. The more we know about what’s driving the offending, the more we can do to prevent it happening. That’s a perspective that I really want to see come to the fore.
- Our members continue to encounter a growing number of illegal firearms, especially in vulnerable communities. What’s your view of this worrying trend?
Everyone deserves to be safe. I live in Christchurch and my community was hit hard by the horrors of March 15. I’m absolutely committed to continuing the work to reduce the presence of illegal firearms in the community. That keeps us all safe – including the women and men of our police service. I am also a firm believer in policing by consent whenever possible, and that means retaining our approach of not having police routinely carrying firearms.
- Tell us about your family and your interests outside politics?
Politics keeps me busy, but I do like to run for exercise and for my mental wellbeing. I did a marathon when I was 50. I trained for seven or eight months and was sore just about every day, so I vowed never to do another one. But I do the City to Surf in Christchurch every year, and a few 10km runs. On the family front, I love to visit with my daughter and son-in-law and their boys in Nelson. And I like to get away with my partner, Stephen, when I can.
- What is the best thing about your Christchurch East electorate?
We’re on the coast and we’ve got great beaches, but, actually, it’s the people. They’re bolshy and quirky and arty and fun. They’ve had a hard road over the past 10 years, but when the chips are down, they have each other’s backs. And I think they have a pretty positive relationship with the police too – aside from the odd ratbag!