Tui Matene is coming home to Kaikohe, armed with the knowledge of the police, the law and human nature that she has gained over 21 years with the force in Wellington.

Matene joined the Police Infringement Bureau (PIB) in 1997, after moving to the capital with husband Shane and young son Dylan for better job prospects.

Now she has left the force and is heading home, looking for a role with the Te Pae Oranga iwi panel which is due to launch in Northland in the coming months.

"It's a good time to leave the police and leave Wellington," she told the police magazine Ten One.

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"I've gone as far as I believe I can down here. My kete's full — I want to pack it up and take it home, to help out the community, and help out the whānau."

She had actually applied for a data entry job at the PIB. The jobs had gone but, because of her background as a former legal secretary, she was offered a role in the Courts section of Adjudication.

"I was very quiet and properly dressed in those days," she said.

"I'm still properly dressed — I'm just not very quiet any more."

Working for the police had built her confidence.

"Be yourself. Some people just want to tick every box to get where they want to be, but for me it was always just about being me," she said.

"He aha te mea nui o te ao? What is the most important thing in the world? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is people, it is people, it is people.

"I've always been about the people. People first, business second. You need the people to make your business successful."

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Matene worked in almost every area of the PIB, eventually going full circle to finish as Courts Section team leader. "I said to my first team leader 'I'm going to have your job when you leave.' And I did."

Her final role was the one she had enjoyed the most.

"I loved the investigation side. I loved the evidence. I wanted to make sure everything was correct from the defendant's side as well as from police's. I wanted to make sure we had a case and everything was fair," she said.

She also enjoyed her working relationships with police prosecutors and road policing managers nationwide, her role including managing speed camera activations by police and other emergency service vehicles.

In Northland she intends networking with police and community partners to find how she can be of use to Te Pae Oranga, a community-based process that seeks to address low-level offending outside the formal court system.

She believed her experience in legal environments and expertise in matters related to driving offending could prove valuable. Driving offences often went before panels, while getting a licence and getting on the road legitimately was a way many people could be lifted out of offending.

Her desire to ensure everything was fair remained a motivation — away from the adversarial court atmosphere, the panel's kaupapa was to work together to help the participant.

Colleagues queued up to pay tribute during Matene's farewell at Police National Headquarters, where her sense of fun and reluctance to keep her opinions to herself were a recurring theme.

Tui Matene receiving her 21-year badge from Inspector Pete McKennie. Photo / NZ Police
Tui Matene receiving her 21-year badge from Inspector Pete McKennie. Photo / NZ Police

Inspector Pete McKennie, road policing operations manager, referred to her "smiley face and a can-do attitude" as he presented her 21-year long service and good conduct badge. She also received a certificate from the police kapa haka group to mark her contribution.

"Tui's one of those people who breaks down barriers," said her final boss at the PIB, Inspector Mike Brooklands.

"She's a straight talker — I always knew where I stood with Tui."

Ten One, NZ Police