Rotorua security guard Rangi Hurihanganui had two paths - life as a gang member or one in a career helping people. Today he holds the country's top award in the security industry. He speaks with Kelly Makiha about how he hopes his story will help others.

When Rangi Hurihanganui turned 15, he dragged his feet on the long walk home from school knowing he had to face his father and tell him the bad news - he had let him down and was leaving school.

Mr Hurihanganui came from a big family - three sisters and seven brothers, all loved and well educated by wonderful parents. But he was different.

The self-confessed black sheep never really connected with the education system and the future looked a bit grim.

On his way home from school that day, he came across a bunch of young guys who asked him what he was up to.


He told them he had just dropped out of school and they tried to convince him to go with them to join the Black Power.

"Back in those days in the 60s, Rotorua was riddled with gangs. I was that close to turning my back and heading with them but a little voice in my head said 'You'd better get home and tell your old man you've left school'."

That same little voice told Mr Hurihanganui he needed to leave Rotorua, so he called his sister, now Rotorua Girls' High School principal Ally Gibbons, who was at the time living in Christchurch with her husband, Shane.

They gave him a place to stay and a contact of Mr Gibbons' got him his first job in the security industry.

"That was in 1979 and I've never looked back."

While you would assume with Mr Hurihanganui's passion for seeing youngsters on the straight and narrow and catching bad guys might lend him towards a life in the police force, he never ventured down that track.

"I'm uneducated and I'd never pass the training. I'm thankful I never did that because security work suited me."

So much so, he has just won the top prize at the New Zealand Security Association Awards held in Rotorua.

The operations manager at Bay of Plenty-based security firm Watchdog Security Group took out two awards, including the supervisor/operations manager category for his dedication, his development of high-quality training practices, focus on outstanding service delivery and his commitment to reducing criminal offending among young Maori.

He was then selected from all category winners to be awarded the top prize which was the Ian Dick Memorial Trophy for Security Personality of the year. The award was presented by Rotorua police area commander Inspector Bruce Horne.