John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Memorial plaque for policeman who saved famous artist

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Louis Hekenui Bidois died in 1955 from head injuries suffered in an attack six years earlier. Photo/file
Louis Hekenui Bidois died in 1955 from head injuries suffered in an attack six years earlier. Photo/file

A Bay of Plenty policeman who saved the life of New Zealand artist Rei Hamon has had his name added to the New Zealand Police Memorial Wall.

Constable Louis Hekenui Bidois, one of the first fulltime Maori policemen of the modern era, singlehandedly found and then carried the very ill artist out of the bush.

A plaque bearing Constable Bidois' name was yesterday attached to the Memorial Wall at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua which commemorated police officers who died from injuries inflicted in the course of their duties.

The Te Puna-born policeman, called Hekenui, was struck with a bottle and kicked while attempting to take two drunken men into custody in the Eastern Bay of Plenty town of Te Whaiti in 1949, and died six years later from brain injuries received in the attack.

His many feats of endurance as a policeman included finding and then carrying the famous artist to safety out of the bush in the Eastern Bay of Plenty after Hamon became sick with pneumonia.

He carried him on his back for nearly 7km to the nearest town. His wife Mere then cared for the artist until he recovered.

Family members who attended the ceremony at the Police College included his son and Ngati Ranginui elder, Colin Bidois.

He recalled how the challenges and difficulties of being a sole-charge policeman in such a large and isolated area led his father to adopt a strategy that was the forerunner of today's family group conferences and whanau hui.

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"It was, and is, the natural Maori process," Mr Bidois said.

Research showed that during his 15 years of service in and around the Urewera country, fewer than 15 people were jailed and taken to Rotorua for prosecution. Part of his success was seeking the co-operation of Maori elders from Tuhoe and Ngati Manawa iwi in helping to deal with bad behaviour.

Mr Bidois said his father's health went downhill soon after the attack. He began to suffer headaches and his general health and strength gradually deteriorated.

Nearly a year after the attack, Constable Bidois was transferred to Rotorua on permanent sick leave and retired in 1953.

The assault happened after Constable Bidois had spent 14 years in sole charge of an area that stretched from Rainbow Mountain, across the Kaingaroa Plains to Murupara, Galatea and Waiohau, and into the Urewera country including Te Whaiti and Minginui, almost to Lake Waikaremoana.

Hekenui Bidois finished his schooling at Te Puna aged 14 to seek work. This was during a time when unemployment among Maori was more than 20 per cent.

After working on farms, Te Puna Quarry, on fishing boats and in the bush, he was persuaded at the age of 37 by Tauranga Police chief Arthur Skinner to become a policeman. He went through five weeks intensive training and in June 1935 his wife and three children arrived at Te Whaiti.

Mr Bidois said his father was a raw recruit when he was posted because police could not find anyone to fill the vacancy. He was paid a horse allowance because of the isolation of areas like Maungapohatu.

Constable Bidois' name was one of three plaques added to the Roll of Honour yesterday. They were all officers who died later as a result of injuries, rather than police or traffic officers already on the memorial who died immediately.

He will also be honoured at today's [29th] Bay of Plenty Police Remembrance Day ceremony being held at the Rotorua Lakes District Council building, starting at 11am.

Remembrance Day also honoured serving police staff who had died over the past year and retired staff who had passed away.

Louis Hekenui Bidois
- Born Te Puna 1898
- Attacked 1949 at Te Whaiti
- Died Rotorua 1955

- Bay of Plenty Times

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