It was an exhilarating start to a baton relay in Northland celebrating 75 years of women in New Zealand's police force.

A dawn powhiri yesterday was held to mark the occasion with local iwi and Northland District Commander Russell Le Prou.

Vicky Bush, the wife of Police Commissioner Mike Bush, and Karen Jones, deputy chief executive public affairs, then officially launched the relay wearing historic police outfits from the 1940s and 1950s.

Mrs Bush passed the illuminated torch over to women police officers from the Northland district, who started the first leg of the national relay.


It was the start of the three-day stage in the region, before the top half of the illuminated baton was handed over to colleagues in the Waitemata district.

Yesterday Constable Rowena Jones and Sergeant Courtney Sandilands peeled off their socks and shoes and with toboggans in hand climbed the Te Paki sand dunes before setting off at pace back down with the relay baton.

The baton also took a trip down Ninety Mile Beach then to Kaitaia, where it was paraded through the town.

One of those organising the Northland stage, Senior Sergeant Anne Marie Fitchett, said it was a spectacular start to the relay with perfect weather conditions.

In the shadow of the Cape Reinga lighthouse, Northland's first female police officer, 88-year-old Myra Lacombe, read A Policewoman's Prayer.

The group was then led by bagpiper Bain McGregor from the lighthouse up the track to the carpark. "It's been a fantastic way to start the relay."

The second half of the relay also began its journey north from Bluff yesterday. The two pieces will be joined at a national parade of policewomen in Wellington on August 1. Along with the illuminated relay baton a taonga baton has been carved and will remain in Northland.

Today the baton will be in Waitangi with a waka paddle to Russell, along with a game of Ki O Rahi between police and the community. Tomorrow the baton will take a trip round the loop at 9am, then police will meet outside the regional council office at 10am before marching to Whangarei police station.