For a Northland-raised police officer, moving to Southland is a little like moving back in time.
Riversdale’s new sole-charge Constable Eric Browne (presently Acting Sergeant in Gore) moved from Kerikeri to take the job.
People in Riversdale would leave their bikes by the side of the road for the day, or leave the car running while they nipped to the store, he said.
“It’s sort of like I’ve jumped back in time.”
“I think it’s something that’s dying out in New Zealand, that community mentality.”
He moved with his wife, a police officer now working in Gore, and his four children.
He wanted a job focused on community policing.
“It’s all about positive interactions with the community, and being the go-to.”
“There’s a really good community in Riversdale, everyone knows everyone.”
Although Northland was by and large a good place to live, there were certain areas where crime was abundant, he said.
“Things become a bit doom and gloom.”
Acting Sergeant Browne became a police officer in 2014 partly because he wanted it to be a way to be a good influence, he said.
His upbringing was difficult, he said.
“I grew up in a household where there was a lot of violence, not towards the children but just in general .. police [were] always turning up to the house.”
A visit to a good friend’s “white picket fence” home at age 13 showed him what life should be like, he said.
“His dad became like a father figure to me, like a mentor.”
He was enjoying his new role.
“It’s wonderful. The people are great.
“It’s the majority that are supportive of the police down here, not the minority.”
Unemployment and gangs were the two big issues up north, he said.
“There’s just not enough employment in Northland to keep people going.
“That in itself causes a little bit of desperation and that drives people to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t.”
While it was to early to be sure of the issues impacting Southland, one thing stood out to him.
“I think the roads down here are a concern, in comparison.”
Speeding and drink-driving were problems, exacerbated by a bigger drinking culture, he said.