State Services Commission advertises deputy commissioner role, creating gap for "blue flamers" to contest the top rank in 2020.

The man once touted as being the first Māori police commissioner will leave the police next month.

Viv Rickard has been the deputy commissioner since 2010 but missed out on the top job to Mike Bush in 2014, when their boss Peter Marshall retired.

Shortly after Bush was appointed as the Commissioner, Rickard was seconded to the Ministry of Social Development for two years, including a stint as deputy chief executive.

His appointment to the statutory role of deputy commissioner was initially a five-year term, which was later extended until this year.


But the Herald has learned Police Minister Stuart Nash recently decided the position should be advertised when Rickard's term expired and an application guide for the job is on the State Services Commission website.

In an internal message to staff on May 9, Mike Bush said he wanted to "acknowledge and thank Viv for all of his work in supporting and advancing the organisation, through the statutory role, over the last eight years".

Rickard declined a request to be interviewed, but a spokewoman for the police said he would stay in the position until his warrant expired next month.

A spokeswoman for Nash said the SSC handles the appointment process and he expected to take a recommendation to Cabinet "very soon".

The decision to seek a new deputy brings an end to 32-year career of Rickard - who is of Te Arawa, Ngāti Whare and Ngāti Porou descent - and any chance he might become New Zealand's first Māori commissioner.

Bush's time as commissioner was to end in 2017, but he was reappointed by Police Minister Judith Collins in 2016 for a second three-year term.

Rickard's departure also means a number of ambitious officers will be jockeying for position to replace Bush in 2020.

It is unlikely to be any of his current deputies.

Bush promoted two officers, Mike Clement and Glenn Dunbier, to the rank of deputy commissioner when he took the top job in 2014.

These appointments were made under his powers as the commissioner, as opposed to the statutory role held by Rickard.

The statutory role is appointed by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, following a recruitment process run by the SSC.

It is understood Clement, Bush's right-hand man, does not want to become Commissioner while Dunbier has been moved sideways on secondment to a government agency in Australia.

A fourth deputy commissioner, Audrey Sonerson, was appointed in late 2016 and responsible for resource management such as the Police College, ICT and professional conduct of staff.

Sonerson, who has kept a low profile, has previously held senior roles in Government agencies including the day-to-day running of the Ministry of Justice.

However, appointing a civil servant to the top rank of commissioner without any frontline police experience would be controversial.

Fresh faces who have risen through the ranks under Bush are considered more likely to replace Rickard, then vie for the top job.

These "blue flamers" include Assistant Commissioners Richard Chambers and Andy Coster, who recently returned from a secondment to the Justice Ministry, or Superintendent Tusha Penny, who is the district commander for Waitemata.

The Herald understands Penny has not applied for the vacant deputy commissioner role.

Others expected to be in the running include Assistant Commissioners Wally Haumaha, in and John Tims, who has oversight of the three Auckland districts.