Graduating from police college will be a day Hawke's Bay-born Constable Erik Meechan never forgets - but not for the obvious reason.

It was the day he got down on one knee and proposed to his partner of five years, Matty Judd, in front of fellow graduating recruits, their families and Commissioner Mike Bush and Police Minister Stuart Nash last week.

As the graduating members of Wing 315 finished a thunderous haka – the last task of their initial training at the Royal New Zealand Police College – Meechan stepped forward.

As winner of the Commissioner's Award for Leadership, he had already stood in front of his 77 wing mates and hundreds of their family members and friends to give a speech. This time there weren't so many words, but they could not have meant more.

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"Could Matty Judd please come forward?" Meechan said. When a surprised Judd stepped out of the audience, Meechan dropped to one knee and proposed.

"I was pretty confident he would accept as it is something we had talked about previously," he said, the jubilation evident in his voice.

The new constable had thought of the idea about a month before but had only decided to go ahead four days before the graduation.

"I wasn't 100 per cent sure until a couple days out. We actually got his ring customised and that arrived the day before so it was cutting it pretty fine.

"We've been more or less through the whole process together so as this was the end of one journey it seemed like the right time to start another one."

Judd said: "We've talked about it for a while but it's one of those things that will always be a surprise. He's normally very reserved – I'm much more likely to do something extravagant.

"I think he wanted to do something extravagant that I would appreciate. And I did.

"It was a really good time and place and also it's quite rare to get all our family together in the same place, so it was good to get them all together."

They met through mutual friends and lived together in Meechan's home town of Taradale before heading to Wellington early on in their relationship.

And it is the time away at Police College which the couple believe strengthened their relationship.

"It's one of those things you don't really realise how much you need someone until you spend that much time away from them."

As for the future, the pair want to enjoy the engagement process and haven't set any date in stone yet.

Meechan said: "It's going to be me settling into a new job and [Matty] having to adjust to me working shift work and all the rest of it. I imagine it's going to be a bit of an adjustment and getting used to living together again."

Stuart Nash had heard before the ceremony that Meechan might propose. "We did say 'Please tell me [his partner] is going to accept' because it would have been bad luck in front of 500 to 600 guests if he had said no."

But watching it unfold rendered the Police Minister speechless and somewhat emotional.

"Every now and again you get a little bit emotional and I must admit I had a little bit of a lump in my throat."