A rural Northland community is appealing for public help in its fight for a full-time police officer rather than having out-of-town officers providing an essential service.
The Hikurangi Business Association has teamed up with concerned locals and has asked members of the public to send letters of support for the local police station to be staffed with a full-time community officer.
The last permanent officer based in Hikurangi was Senior Constable Russell Rawiri who retired a few months ago after serving 28 years.
About seven years ago, another long-serving officer Senior Constable Gavin Benney quit after 23 years in Hikurangi to run a pub and is also a Whangārei District Councillor.
Association chairman Shayn Rouse
said the community was not receptive to the idea of Northland police sending officers on three-month stints in one of the largest policing areas in the region.
"The community is fairly upset at not having a full-time replacement and the fact is temporary officers are doing a good job but they don't know the community very well.
"Relationship building is key and you can't do that if you move on after a temporary stint.
Russell and Gavin knew the area well and who to deal with and we need someone like them.
"It is important to have a local police officer stationed in our town who knows the locals and is the main point of contact for all police inquiries within our community," Rouse said.
The Hikurangi policing area is one of the largest in Northland. It starts at Matapouri Bay, up the coastline to Punaruka, cuts across inland to Towai, and right through to Kauri.
A public meeting will be held on November 6 at the Hikurangi Bowling Club where police will inform locals about the future of staffing at the police station.
In the meantime, Rouse said the association would appreciate if concerned members of the public sent letters to police area commander for Northland, Superintendent Tony Hill, Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti and Northland MP Matt King.
Hill said police have not made a decision on Rawiri's replacement or the future of staffing at the Hikurangi police station, and he assured the locals they would continue to have the same level of service, if not better.
"Whether we do that from Kamo or have a person there, we won't make that decision without community input. At the moment, we are considering what our structure will look like in future.
"We may come up with an interim model. It's about the best way to ensure staff are safe and to balance that with providing a vital community service," Hill said.
He did not have a timeline as to when a final decision would be made.
Benney said it was vital whoever was posted at Hikurangi police station long-term had good area knowledge and also knew the locals.
"It's a hell of a commitment and it takes a massive toll on your family because of the time and effort required. It's a not a nine-to-five job but things like attending to callouts in the middle of the night and other stuff.
"It takes time and effort to be a country cop. People think it's a quiet police station but you're on your own and vulnerable and then there's expectation from police."
He and Rawiri continually achieved high crime resolution rates in one of the biggest areas covered by two cops in Northland.
Clearance rates for New Zealand hovered around 50 per cent but Hikurangi regularly had 60-65 per cent; the top in Northland and usually the top in the country when the duo were working together.
Two years after he quit police, Benney wrote a book Country Cop - the Life and Times of a Rural Cop, about his 30 years on the beat.
In 2018, Rawiri received a Civic Honour Award, the highest honour Whangārei District Council can bestow on its citizens.
It was noted Rawiri was the major force behind the introduction of the marae drivers' licensing programme, over-70s driver testing in Hikurangi and established Rural and Neighbourhood Watch groups.
Letters of support for a full-time officers to be based in Hikurangi can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.