City salutes its modest hero

By Stuart Dye

As a young man Pes Fa'aui applied to join the police but was rejected. It might have been a quieter career.

In 10 years as a parking warden in Waitakere he has foiled jewel thieves, rescued children and tracked a stolen car.

Three months ago he helped police subdue a man who was breaking windows in the area.

And on Monday he tackled a knife-wielder, ending the carnage among lunchtime strollers in Henderson.

The attacks left one man dead, two others in hospital with life-threatening wounds, and Mr Fa'aui nursing a cut hand that needed five stitches.

It is an act of bravery that has elevated the softly spoken 35-year-old to hero status in West Auckland - a label he rejects.

"Heroes are people who died for this country. They are police, ambulance and hospital staff who deal with this kind of thing every day. I'm not a hero."

Mr Fa'aui was chalking a car at lunchtime when the drama unfolded.

Police shot the man who was brandishing a knife and refusing orders to drop the weapon.

Mr Fa'aui, a prop for Glenora league side last season, saw that a lone officer was confronting the man who continued to advance despite his bullet wound.

"I just thought I had to do something to help," he said.

"I thought, 'You've only got one try and you've got to get it right'. Luckily I did."

The father of six leaped on the knifeman and dragged him to the floor as police joined in to restrain the man.

He did not think of the danger after seeing 65-year-old Kevan Bruce Newman fatally stabbed and said he would "do it again without hesitation".

But everything that had happened was overshadowed by the death of Mr Newman, Mr Fa'aui told the Herald.

"I just want to pass on my condolences to Mr Newman's family and friends."

It is not the first time the parking warden - usually on the receiving end of abuse from people - has performed over and above his duties.

In 1997 he chased jewel thieves and leaped into the back of their car as they tried to speed off.

The same day he broke the rules and smashed his way into a car where two young children had been left locked in sweltering heat.

And before the week was out he had refused to ignore an abandoned car - eventually contacting its owners who had not realised it had been stolen.

"I seem to attract all the wrong scenarios," Mr Fa'aui said.

"It's a bad habit. Perhaps I should retire while I'm on top."

Yesterday Mr Fa'aui was given a bravery award by council staff and colleagues. An even better reward, he says, was a spontaneous burst of applause as he walked past a women's clothing store in Henderson.

It was good that parking wardens were able to get some good press because it was "few and far between".

Inspector Mark O'Connor described his actions as "courageous" and Colin Waite, the manager of parking services for the Waitakere City Council, said it was "extremely gutsy".

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