Wednesday, 24 April 2024 - 2:27pm

The best thing I ever did

3 min read

News article photos (3 items)

The McVey clan - Sergeant Matt, Constables Emma and Makaela, and dad Peter at Makaela's graduation in November 2023.
Sergeant Matt McVey with his dad Peter on his graduation day.
You can always rely on a good pie in Ruatoria.

Leading a team of police officers in one of the New Zealand’s most remote spots may not be every 23-year-old’s cup of tea - but for Sergeant Matt McVey it’s the best thing he’s ever done.

Matt was just 18 when he joined Police and spent his first two years on PST in Gisborne, before a constable’s role in Ruatoria on the North Island’s East Coast caught his eye.

“I grew up in Gisborne but I’d only ever been as far north as Tolaga Bay," says Matt. "But I thought why not, and I applied and got the job.”

Matt is from a policing family. His dad Peter is a retired police officer, and his two sisters are officers in Gisborne - one newly out of the Royal New Zealand Police College and the other in CIB.

He says working as a police officer in a small town is totally different to policing elsewhere.

“You can’t just arrest someone; you have to try and sort things out. You learn to communicate a lot more and you get to see things through from start to finish." 

He says you also work closely with the local community in which you live.

“The community often sorts a lot of stuff themselves because they are so far away from everything. Often the answer is right in front of you and you just have to ask and the community will help you.”

Matt knew living in Ruatoria would be isolated but says the reality when you’re living there full time takes it to a whole new level. That was made worse by cyclones damaging the roads in early 2023.

“For some time, we had to drive six hours through the coast to get to Gisborne, normally a two-hour drive.”

He is currently playing football for a team in Gisborne and drives two hours each way three times a week for training and games.

"It takes a lot out of me but I feel I have to do it because it's something I love, and it gives me a break from work.

"Living in a small community like Ruatoria as a police officer you are really on call 24/7. I think still being involved in things outside of work is pretty important."

Ruatoria Police Station.
Ruatoria Police Station.

Matt says rural policing is a great place to learn as you must make decisions on the spot - and are often acting as Serious Crash or CIB until support can get there.

“My first big job was a fatal vehicle crash. I was still a constable and was out of cellphone range. I was able to speak to the DCC [District Command Centre] and the Serious Crash team over the radio, but I just had to back myself and get on with the job.”

He says jobs that seem run of the mill in Gisborne are a bigger deal in Ruatoria because of the lower level of staffing and the rural location.

“I’ve grown so much as a police officer in Ruatoria. You don’t feel like you’re learning but you are. I've gone back and done shifts in Gisborne and realise just how far I've come since being in Ruatoria.”

Matt spent two years on PST in Ruatoria before being appointed acting sergeant, and then gaining his sergeant’s stripes late last year.

He admits he’s young for the role but says his dad always told him you gain more life experience in your first week in Police than some people do in their lifetime.

“People do often see me as young but you just have a conversation with them, and they see you care and you earn their respect. 

"In a place like Ruatoria the locals work you out pretty quickly.”

Matt loves being a sergeant. “It’s certainly a bigger workload but I love looking after a team and we have great camaraderie up here.”

So, what’s next for this young sergeant? He’s keen to head back to police in Gisborne in the next year but, from there, who knows? What he does know is that spending time in Ruatoria has been the best thing he ever did.

“If officers are thinking about joining a rural station, I would say go for it. Yes, it’s scary, but it’s so worth it, especially for staff with no commitments. Honestly you won’t regret it."