Whanganui policing has changed since police started listening to the community - and the results are impressive, Whanganui/Ruapehu Area Commander Nigel Allan says.
He's been seconded to Wellington until June 30, to be the engagement and communications lead for the integrated community response thread in the Justice Ministry's joint venture business unit about family and sexual violence.
The "integrated community response" he's championing is relationship-based, community-led and government-supported. The idea is to strengthen and heal families, preventing violence before it starts.
Whanganui Police have taken the approach on board and it aligns with Government's Te Aorerekura National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence, launched before Christmas.
Allan has only been in Wellington a few days, and so far has been reading related information and talking to people.
He expects to find out how police handle family and sexual violence in other centres, and bring new ideas back to Whanganui.
He's been chosen for the job because Whanganui was an early adopter of Whangaia Ngā Pā Harakeke, an initiative in which police partner with local iwi and communities to reduce family harm.
There have been many aspects to this, Allan said.
In a separate but related initiative, Ash Patea and others have been growing police knowledge of te ao Māori and Whanganui history.
"It's been compelling, for some. It's awesome," Allan said.
The 30 extra staff across Whanganui/Ruapehu since 2017 have also given police more time to spend with whānau, establishing trust and understanding.
What they are doing is not a new programme or service, Allan said. It could be just following up on a violent episode and strengthening connections with those involved.
Previously police had been attending violent incidents, without the ability to build
There's been a recognition by police and the wider community that change will only happen when police have the time, space and capacity to make those person-to-person connections, Allan said.
In late 2018 a large group of stakeholders mulled over what would help the Whanganui situation.
Partnering with Tūpoho, Whanganui Police set up FLOW - a "long and deep story" in itself, Allan said.
The FLOW team is 13 police, with Peter Porter and Varnia Allan as kaihautū (leaders). It's based in a former education department building in Victoria Ave - because it's about more than police and the police station.
Families/whānau are now going to FLOW when they are under stress and before there is a violent crisis. They get consultation and support, and can decide what else to do.
"We are not counsellors," Allan said.
"It's not for the police or anyone to tell families what they need."
He's quite certain these changes are making a difference, but unwilling to use the number of episodes to prove that.
Nationally the rate at which family harm is reported is low, he said, and police can expect more to be reported as families gain more trust in police.
Police service delivery is growing, and there's more that can be done.
"There's still a massive opportunity to keep building," he said.