Striving to deliver the best possible policing services for and in partnership with their respective communities is the key motivator for three Police officers awarded Royal Honours today.
- Superintendent John Price, OStJ, Canterbury District Commander, who becomes an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM)
- Inspector Kieren Kortegast, Manager of the Police’s Southern Communications Centre, based in Christchurch, who becomes a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)
- Inspector Tamuera (Sam) Aberahama, Area Commander of Tairāwhiti (Gisborne), Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM).
Humbling, honoured and out of the blue, sum up their reactions to the recognition which is for their service to New Zealand Police and the community.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the honours were well deserved and reflected the deep commitment the officers have to doing their very best for communities in times of crisis, and in proactive prevention work.
Superintendent John Price said his ONZM is “an acknowledgement for the team as a whole and I am only part of that extraordinary team. It’s for all Police in Canterbury who have been working with a real purpose and commitment over the last ten years to do our very best for our people, and the community that we serve every day.
“To have been part of a police team that has helped to bring peace, safety, inclusiveness and unity to our community has been the greatest reward of all. As police we have strived to ensure a safe and inclusive New Zealand together.
“For me the focus has always been on people and putting our community first and at the centre of our service. It’s people, Police and partnerships that make the difference. Anything which impacts on the public impacts us all. The wider team in Canterbury includes all our partner agencies who we have stood alongside with solidarity as a cohesive capability when we faced challenges from natural disasters and emergencies through to human focused terror. These momentous challenges have ensured a greater strength of a common goal where police demonstrated courage, compassion and confidence.”
Canterbury born and bred, Superintendent Price says policing is an honourable vocation and a true profession as once served always servicing. The former teacher joined Police in October 1987, graduating in March 1988. He worked in frontline response, prevention and investigative roles in Wellington District, including in 2004 working in Rotorua with Operation Austin; the largescale investigation into serious historical offending by police.
He was deployed in 2005 to Operation Phuket as the Anti Mortem commander as part of the international disaster victim identification team.
Later promoted to Inspector on return to Christchurch in 2005, in 2010 and 2011 took the lead role as the Operation Commander in response to the September and then later the February earthquakes and throughout 2011 was the Acting District Commander during the many further earthquakes. A stint back in Wellington as Kapiti-Mana Area Commander followed and in 2012 as Superintendent he became the National Manager: Training and Development at the Royal NZ Police College.
“The college was an extremely rewarding time as it’s here during recruit, senior and advanced courses that police culture and professionalism is developed, learned and enhanced,” he says.
The opportunity to lead the Canterbury District came up in 2015. Since then he has led the responses to the 2016 North Canterbury earthquakes, 2017 Port Hill fires and was the forward commander during and following the 15 March, 2019 Mosque shootings and has played a large part in supporting the community to overcome the inhuman crime, including the sentencing of the terrorist.
“It is important that we remember that while one person tried to create hate, the community responded with unity. That day has been referred to as NZ’s darkest day, but I think of it as Police’s finest day as we did not allow evil to conquer good. The pride shown by all our people since that day coupled with the goodness of humankind simply fills my heart and soul.
“Canterbury has responded to a multitude of challenging policing and community issues in the last ten years, but I want us to be known as more than a crisis policing district,” he says. “I am exceedingly proud of the way the Canterbury police team have responded to the extraordinary array of emergencies we have been faced with, but Policing goes deeper than response. The Canterbury team adds enormous value to its people through delivering innovative prevention and safety in our homes, on our roads and in our community.”
He is particularly proud of the work done on community justice panels, which started “as a seed of an idea in Christchurch in 2009”; and an alternative way of dealing with low level offending. Utilising expertise and guidance from Iwi, especially Nga Maata Waka, Canterbury Community Law, social services and cross-agency partners the goal was dealing with the causation of offending, ensuring community justice for the community by the community.
“The seed has been nurtured, grown and flourished and the panel was the forerunner to Te Pae Oranga, Iwi community panels expanding throughout the country.”
Superintendent Price also serves on the University of Canterbury’s Board of Criminal Justice Studies and was on the Australian Institute of Policing Management’s Board of Studies, roles which also contribute to policing decisions in Canterbury and enables further partnership towards a safer community.
“I’m grateful for the opportunities and challenges that have come my way, and especially the tireless support of my family, partner agencies and colleagues which in turn has given me the ability to serve and provide guardianship to the people of Canterbury in the best possible way that I can.”
Inspector Kieren ‘KK’ Kortegast MNZM is a near 48-year veteran in Police, joining as a Cadet in January 1972. Nearly all his career since graduation in August 1973 has been in Christchurch, working in frontline including CIB roles.
A 12-month stint in the Southern Comms Centre came up in 1996 – and Inspector Kortegast is still there, working as centre manager for the last 17 years.
“I love the job. It’s exciting, challenging, and the technology keeps advancing,” he says. “I’m privileged to lead a great group of people in a very busy environment.
Inspector Kortegast says the MNZM is shared with his family, colleagues and others he’s worked with over the years.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had and the support of so many people”
The citation for his award reflects the exemplary leadership shown during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, the relocation of the Comms Centre into the new Justice and Emergency Service Precinct in 2018 and other crisis, including the Mosque shootings.
“The calibre of staff working in the emergency call centres is exceptional, and they do their very best in dealing with multiple calls from people in crisis. At the same time our dispatchers are drawing on this information, assigning response units, and liaising with staff in the field.
“The volume of 111 calls and radio comms is high, and it’s a tribute to the staff that they manage the demands so well.”
Inspector Kortegast has oversight of the business continuity plan for the Police Communications Centres, and is responsible for the planning and coordinating of joint emergency services and related agencies BCP training.
His expertise and extensive knowledge have seen him representing Police on the National Emergency Communications Working Group – Australia and New Zealand for more than 14 years, and was until recently, a member of the board.
Outside of Police, Inspector Kortegast spent nearly a decade fundraising for the Life Education Trust as part of his involvement with the Round Table Service Club. He won the organisation’s annual award in 1990 for his service to the community and to Round Table.
He’s also a former board member and chair of the St Anne’s Woolston Catholic School.
“The external governance roles and my policing roles have worked together well,” he says.
Inspector Sam Aberahama, Tairāwhiti Area Commander, likes nothing best than working in partnership with his staff and the community. His MNZM is a double celebration – it will surprise his family and is a good way to mark his 56th birthday on New Year’s Day.
In keeping with his philosophy of building trust and confidence in Police, he will however be out in the field working with his staff on the Rhythm and Vines operations.
“I’m incredibly proud to lead an amazing team of 150 people. Everything we do is motivated for the love of the Tairāwhiti region. Connecting with people counts.”
Inspector Aberahama has been in Police since 1988 and has worked in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay and the Gisborne communities. He’s been Area Commander for the last ten years. In 2016 he helped establish the Cook Islands Internal Support Network for NZ Police.
Inspector Aberahama has been chair of the Safe Tairāwhiti Community Trust, is a member of the Governance Group of Manaaki Tairāwhiti and a keen supporter of a prevention approach to policing.
One initiative he helped establish seven years ago is the successful Nga Ara Pai programme aimed at helping 18 – 24 year olds get their restricted driver’s licence. At risk drivers stopped for no licences are given an infringement with compliance which sees them referred to the scheme for mentoring and help to pass their licence. Once they’ve passed their licence, the infringement is waived.
“Hundreds have gone through the scheme over the years with an 80 percent success rate. Passing your driver’s licence is a win-win for everyone. Instead of a ticket, passing your licence is a ticket to a future. It opens doors for mobility, education and employment.”
He says the initiative is hugely popular, and police try to make it as easy as possible for young people to access the scheme. The initiative has attracted young drivers from Tologa Bay and Wairoa where they come to Gisborne for lessons.
“Some of the instructors have mentored over 20 people through the scheme, I have had the privilege of working alongside 14 of our youth. Building relationships with young people helps increase trust and confidence in police. It’s great to see them grow, flourish and become legal drivers.”
He says programmes aimed at reducing family harm such as Te Hahi and providing safe networks for families, including the elderly, are crucial. “I am proud to be associated with a number of community groups over the past ten years that have brought about positive change for whanau to flourish in Tairawhiti.”
Investiture ceremonies for Royal Honours recipients are hosted by the Governor General, and will be held on dates to be confirmed in 2021.