In the darkness of a meth epidemic, increasing violence and growing family harm rates in the Bay of Plenty, a Rotorua man is helping curb the stats.

Today, Iwi liaison officer Sergeant Lehi Hohaia's crucial work has been recognised and he has been awarded a Queen Service Medal in the 2020 New Year Honours.

Hohaia's 40-year policing career includes 20 years as a detective, 10 with the Armed Offender Squad and another 10 as the pouwhakataki (Community Connectors) and sergeant in charge of Māori affairs for Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty.

He has also been a trustee on the Taharangi Marae Board of Trustees for three years.


Hohaia helped develop and currently leads the Tū Taua Drug Harm Reduction programme around Te Arawa Marae which helps iwi and whanau join together to speak out against illicit drugs in their communities.

A collective stand had been made against the use of methamphetamine and there had also been marae roadshows in Rotorua and around the Bay of Plenty, he said.

There are also one-day education marae programmes in Rotorua which Hohaia said made "huge" strides in reducing the use of methamphetamine with the people who attended.

Hohaia developed the Rotorua Area Alcohol Impairment Education programme which was launched in 2013 which is a one-day programme at Taharangi Marae for reoffending drink drivers.

"With the 600-odd people who have attended over the last five years, we have a 95 per cent non-reoffend rate."

The message in this programme is simple – to have a plan before you drink or drug-drive, and included a tikanga Māori element throughout the course.

"People that attend get it - if you drink and drive or drug-drive, you will kill yourself or someone."

The newest of the programmes he created and initiated was E Tū Matua, a family harm reduction programme to work with Māori men at the same marae.


He also represented the New Zealand Māori All Blacks, and Waikato and Bay of Plenty as a representative rugby player.

"I am so privileged and humbled to receive the QSM on behalf of iwi and for the 40 years I have been with the New Zealand Police to represent the Rotorua community," he said.

While there was still lots of work to do, the positive impact showed the collaboration between iwi, law enforcement and other organisations was moving in the right direction.

"Gaining the trust and confidence of working with our community will keep us in great stead for the future."