Tributes have flowed for one of the Far North's most respected and best-loved police officers, Patrick (Paddy) William Whiu, who died peacefully at his home at Waipapa, surrounded by his family, on Sunday morning after a short illness. He was 62.
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall, who said the New Zealand Police had lost a mighty totara, had just days earlier, on Waitangi Day, presented Sergeant Whiu with a Silver Merit Award, the highest police honour for the performance of duties.
Mr Whiu served in the police for 41 years, graduating in 1973 to a posting in Whangarei and was transferred to the one-man station at Kaeo. He went on to become Northland's first iwi liaison officer and later facilitated liaison officer training courses at the New Zealand Police College.
In 2001, he received the Queen's Service Medal for services to the public, followed in 2004 by a Commissioner's Commendation for his role in the foreshore and seabed hikoi from Northland to the steps of Parliament.
Since 2007, he was integral in the Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services (MPES) team at Police National Headquarters and led training to build the Maori Wardens' effectiveness and professionalism.
The breadth of the respect and affection in which he was held was demonstrated when Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira used his first speech in the House for 2013 to pay tribute to Mr Whiu, "the gentle, caring, smiling face" of the New Zealand police, who was then gravely ill at his home.
Mr Harawira told Parliament it was a rare occurrence for him to send best wishes to a policeman but he suspected many others throughout the country would join him in wishing Mr Whiu all the best.
"Paddy has become the face of Maori policing and iwi liaison, the gentle, caring, and smiling face of a police force that is often mistrusted and sometimes reviled in Maori communities," he said.
"Paddy has that unique ability to lower the heat through his simple good nature, kind words and warm humour. Kia kaha, my friend, we are all praying for you."
The Maori Party paid its respects to Mr Whiu (Ngapuhi, Ngati Tuera, Ngati Hinearo o Whanganui) on Monday.
"He was a legend," co-leader Pita Sharples said.
"He had a heart for the community and could operate at a local and a national level. He truly was a people's man and a people's cop."
Fellow co-leader Tariana Turia said Mr Whiu would be remembered for his calming influence and his ability to work with all levels of the community.
Tributes lodged on the Northern Advocate's Facebook page during Mr Whiu's last days included one from a reformed gang member: "Tena koe, my friend. As the years rolled on we put aside our differences and recognised the good in each other. Get well soon, Rangatira."