Everyone's got an uncle and aunty in the Rotorua Māori Wardens Community Trust - whether you're a backpacker in town, a businessman, or before the courts. Samantha Olley finds out what the wardens do and why.
Don't be fooled by their walkie talkies and uniforms - Rotorua's Māori Wardens are not police, and they're not security.
They're part of a voluntary organisation, doing it "Aroha ki te tangata - For the love of the people".
Their office is tucked away upstairs on Hinemoa St but you can't miss them when they're out on the beat.
You'll hear their giggles, see their popularity and feel their mana.
Gloria Tangihaere Hughes has always been a warden of Māoridom in practice, but she became a Māori Warden on paper in the 2000s.
"From when I was very young, whether we liked it or not, we just got hauled out there to help the Māori Wardens," she says with a laugh.
Now Hughes oversees the wardens in Rotorua, a group of people she says simply "have a calming effect because it's a natural approach of Māori to be nice to people".
"Any ethnicity, it doesn't worry us, we work with everybody ... It's just being that comforting approach to controlling what can become an incident."
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Hughes believes on some occasions, the wardens have saved lives, particularly through their work with the Rangatahi Court in Rotorua.
Ngā Kōti Rangatahi operate in the same way as the Youth Court, but are held on marae and follow Māori cultural processes.
She says "police are a big threat to some of our young people, and it's because of their lack of understanding".
But often Hughes sees this change when the wardens host youth offenders and Rotorua police for morning tea together.
"In the end, they actually finally recognise that the police are humans ... And we do take them out, and it gives them the ability to interact with the public so that they see the other side of what they are doing. And they don't like what they see to be very honest."
She says the hardest part about being a warden is "not being fairly treated".
"There are many people across New Zealand who demand the services of Māori Wardens, but they are not prepared to make any contribution financially for a service.
"They ring me and say 'but you're a voluntary organisation' and I say 'We are a voluntary organisation but we are not rich and we have overheads to meet, we have resources to buy to allow us to be out there.'"
The Rotorua Māori Wardens Community Trust has been on the Charitable Trust Register since 2002.
It receives some funding from the government, some income from work that is paid for, and other funding from donations and grants.
When Hughes was president of the New Zealand Māori Wardens Association for nine years, she campaigned "to ensure wardens get the respect they deserve" and is still doing so now.
The wardens held a landmark vote to work with Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta to update the legislation and bring the wardens more autonomy, at a national conference at Tūrangawaewae Marae in July.
The Government announced $3.75 million in funding to support the wardens' training, recruitment, promotion and self-management this year.
Hughes is also among the senior leaders from around the country appointed to the Māori Warden Modernisation Working Group and they met for the first time last month.
Tangihaere Gloria Hughes - Waiariki Māori Wardens
Tangihaere Hughes shares her whakaaro and insights about the landmark decision made at the recent National Māori Wardens Conference held at Tūrangawaewae Marae... #ArohaKiTeTangata #MāoriWardensNationalConference2019 #MāoriWardens #NgāWāteneMāoriPosted by Māori Wardens on Tuesday, 3 September 2019
Hughes says about 70 per cent of cases of unruly behaviour in Rotorua can be de-escalated by the wardens, but about 30 per cent are directly referred to police.
She says the district's police "always give the wardens the grace to approach a situation first if it's safe to".
"The police will stand back but they are always close by."
If a situation needs to be taken over by police, the wardens step back and clear bystanders away.
"In general, Rotorua is very good. Sure, we have our problems, but not like we used to. I don't know why.
"I think maybe it's the approach that the business owners have taken around safe drinking and managing their own establishments."
Rotorua police Inspector Brendon Keenan agrees the wardens are well-respected by some community members who "may not always respect police direction".
He says this often comes down to the wardens' wide, longstanding community links.
"Some will also know the families (especially when dealing with youth) so they sometimes have more influence over these young people – especially if these youth people give false details, for example. The wardens know exactly who they are."
The wardens have police radios and have a police van marked out for them in Rotorua.
Wardens radio police if they witness suspicious activity or offending and are trained for emergency responses too.
They also liaise with the Rotorua Lakes Council's Safe City Guardians, who patrol daily.
Some wardens in Rotorua work shifts with St John and Visions of a Helping Hand.
Visions of a Helping Hand founder Tiny Deane says four wardens are paid each day to work between 8am and 5pm at the trust's facilities, before security guards come on overnight.
He says "the homeless definitely respond better to them than most police or security guards".
"They have really good mannerisms and a certain perception, especially for Māori who are homeless ... It is a lot easier when they're there."
Rotorua Lakes Council cultural ambassador and councillor Trevor Maxwell says the wardens have done a "tremendous" job for many years and, in his opinion, they are underfunded by the government.
"They are at many places I go to, whether they are telling me where to park, or are helping with tangi, or the kapa haka and waka ama.
"They are always wearing their uniforms so proudly. They like what they're doing, they take it up to support our people."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey calls them the community's "unsung heroes" and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters calls the country's 900 wardens "a huge asset to New Zealand's social cohesion".
When it comes to human resources, a new generation of wardens is gradually donning the uniforms.
Hone Morris joined when he was 15.
The 20-year-old loves helping people and being a warden gives him a wide range of opportunities to do so.
"Whether it's being on patrol or helping at events, it's different from what I do with the likes of the Fordlands Community Centre or working with youth.
"I would encourage anyone passionate about their community, wanting to give back in a unique way, to get involved."
What do the wardens do?
They work with the homeless, people under the influence of alcohol, young people and the wider community, they facilitate hui and hīkoi and provide event and traffic management.
They are not police, and they're not security guards but they have some responsibilities under the Māori Community Development Act 1962, based on their values of rangimārie, manaaki, kōrero, whakaiti, tautoko and pono - peace, kindness, talking, humility, support, and honesty.
They are often tasked to problem spots by Iwi Liaison Officers when police need an extra set of eyes and ears, often on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and early mornings or for large scale events such as concerts or New Year's Eve.
Want to join?
Visit the Rotorua Community Māori Wardens Trust at 1181 Pukuatua St.
Fill in an application form and you will be given an introduction appointment date and time.