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Community policing on a new beat

Ngā Pirihimana o Aotearoa, New Zealand Police, has faced many trials and tribulations adapting to the changing political and legal landscape with the formation of each new Government. MARLEE PARTRIDGE looks at likely challenges in the next few years.

The first records of “modern-day” policing in New Zealand date back to 1840 and the arrival of Lieutenant Governor Hobson, along with six constables from England.

Early police officers served as both police and militia, and the organisational structure had similarities to the United Kingdom and British colonial police forces, particularly the Royal Irish Constabulary and – closer to home – the New South Wales Police Force.

The Police Act 1886 saw the establishment of a single national police force, where provincial policing arrangements were disestablished and staff integrated into the newly formed New Zealand Police Force.

The role of police and militia split, and with the creation of the New Zealand Police Force came the establishment of the New Zealand Defence Force.

In 1958 a new Police Act was passed where the word ‘force’ was removed. The name now used is New Zealand Police or Police.

The evolution of policing in Aotearoa New Zealand was also partially tied to the changing political climate since 1840 and legislation passed through central government.

Looking ahead

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in policing to focus on social issues and their causes – with a particularly tight focus on the justice system and preventing people from getting trapped in a cycle of re-offending.

A relatively new programme in the New Zealand Police framework is AWHI.

In te reo Māori, awhi means to care for, embrace and cherish – to help or support others.

In context for New Zealand Police, the AWHI programme is a tikanga-based voluntary referral programme for people over 16 that can be used by police to help any member of the public they come into contact with – including people who may have been caught offending.

It is part of the new understanding of the social issues that can lead to minor offences.

Developed in 2018 by two frontline officers, “AWHI supports our frontline staff to help people in their communities with issues which could contribute to offending, reoffending or victimisation,” the police said.

“AWHI is one of the many police support systems aiding people in our communities with help.”

Between June 14, 2021 and December 19, 2023, there were 1944 referrals made in the Wellington District – which Wairarapa falls within.

Referrals in Wairarapa totalled 270 during this timeframe and included 96 referrals for women and 174 for men.

With the help of 10 service providers, these 270 referrals were used to help members of the Wairarapa community and included services that help with driver’s licencing, addiction services, employment services, and family wellbeing services.

The referrals already issued were for people between the ages of 16 to 91.

Wairarapa Sergeant Roger Newton works as a supported resolutions coordinator for Wairarapa Police and has taken on the role of AWHI Coordinator in the region.

He said some of the best examples of referrals given by frontline staff related to driving offences where people may have been driving unlicenced for numerous reasons.

It would often be people driving unlicenced due to the financial constraints of licencing and testing, as well as things like access issues to professional driving lessons.

Prior to the AWHI programme, Howard League came to Wairarapa once a fortnight.

Howard League is a non-profit organisation that helps people who have been in trouble with the police or in the justice system to get their licences.

Newton said that the need for services like Howard League in Wairarapa was shown through AWHI data collection [which remains anonymous], and the presence in the region was able to move from one day a fortnight to full-time.

Off the back of AWHI, Police could show Howard League a “true picture” of the need for its services.

In a historical statement from Howard League, they noted that at least 80 per cent of jobs required an employee to be fully licenced and getting into employment has been proven as a successful tool to helping people “off a pathway to prison and a life of crime”.

The data obtained from AWHI referrals remains “private and confidential”, Newton said.

It is used to help partnering organisations establish programmes and initiatives that target specific demographics.

“It’s all demographic stuff, so they can then go use that and deliver that to their funders to show how many referrals they’ve received from Police,” he said.

“Then they can go and build programmes and initiatives according to that data.”

An example would be if there was a high crash rate for an age group

“[They] could then do programmes targeting that group to help prevent that and lower that number.”

Gambling addiction services are another example of the way in which the AWHI programme can help tackle problems in our community.

Newton said the reception of the programme within the local police had been warm and well-received.

“It’s quite new; it’s quite different to what was generally your business as police, but when we delivered it, it was welcomed with open arms,” he said.

“It just goes to show how far we’ve come.”

The referrals require consent from the referred person as it is a voluntary programme but local police have all been making referrals which are fed back to Newton.

Once the referral has been done, Newton makes a point of letting the referee know the outcome of the referral.

“There’s so many good news stories,” coming from the AWHI programme, he said.

“I think we are making a great impact on the community in many ways, people’s lives, families.”

The results of the programme – though not currently able to be managed – have been speaking for themselves through anecdotal evidence.

“We’ve seen so many people not getting in trouble with police now.”

Referrals come through interactions that police have with people in the community and what they may disclose.

“We can say, ‘hey, look, these are the services that we have in Wairarapa, and I can make a referral to those services for you’,” Newton said.

From the referral, those community service providers will get in touch with the referred person.

He said that not everyone will take the referral the first time or won’t follow up on it, but there is no limit to how many times a person can be referred for support.

“You can make referrals as many times as it takes for that person to get the help they need,” he said.

“Because it comes down to timing,” he said, noting that not everybody would be at a point in their life where they are ready to take that next step.

Sometimes services in the community that are there to help aren’t always heavily advertised, and sometimes people don’t know where to go for help and he is proud that new initiatives like AWHI have the capability of helping the community connect with the appropriate support.

“It just makes you proud that you can do something like this in the police,” Newton said.

“There’s more options available to us in the police now to help our people.”


  1. Nanny state many New Zealanders are unable to have there vehicle insuranced because of uninsured people driving. I’m sure there is a lot of help out there but until you get a license don’t drive 🤔. We need to uphold the laws in this country otherwise more and more citizens will move overseas.

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