As a spattering of rain began to fall, a welcome karanga could be heard on the grounds of Takapūwāhia Marae.
On Monday morning (19 December), a pōwhiri was held to welcome Inspector Renée Perkins (Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga/Rangitaane, Muaūpoko) as Area Commander Kāpiti-Mana.
“Ngā mihi nui to Ngāti Toa Rangatira for the gracious welcome and manaakitanga," said Renée. "My whānau and I are deeply honoured and privileged.
“The path I am on was laid for me by my tupuna and with this knowledge comes great responsibility. I am stepping into a role of stewardship for a time with our mokopuna in mind - taking care of what they will be inheriting in the future. This is humbling for me.”
Helmut Modlik CEO Ngāti Toa Rangatira celebrated the stark contrast of the mana-enhancing occasion to past times when Māori were actively discouraged from joining Police. “We are committed to working with Police and communities,” he said.
“It’s not the police’s job alone to address the issues we’re facing. As an iwi, we want to heal our communities.
"We are thinking hard and seriously as a whānau because we must. We must have open minds, open hearts, and be courageous.”
Just as the crossing from manuhiri to hau kainga side during a pōwhiri is symbolic of a welcome, iwi reaffirmed their commitment to working in partnership with Police.
“E te iwi, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, your vision inspires me, your mission compels me, your pace excites me," Renée responded during her kōrero. "I am honoured to work alongside you, to serve you and to sometimes just get out of the way.
“The privilege of serving you as Kāpiti-Mana Area Commander feels like coming home. The responsibility feels enormous as it should. Our Vision that New Zealand is the safest country is a bold one. This is important mahi.”
Renée has a rich connection to the diverse places and peoples of Porirua and Kāpiti.
Renée's path has been varied - but the skills, knowledge and experience she has gained over 25 years of policing are all treasure in her kete.
The pull of helping others through policing that got Renée through the door ignited her passion for what can be achieved. Police partnering with communities for better outcomes has kept her in the job and focused.
Renée acknowledges this hasn’t always been the case. “The injustices I saw in the justice system from early in my career were hard to reconcile.
"On one hand I had this drive to help people and see them succeed, yet the system didn’t always enable it. At the time, the organisational culture made me feel like I didn’t belong.”
“Where we are now as an organisation is vastly different. My values are more aligned to Police than ever before. The growth in diversity of people, different leadership styles and collaborative approaches is a key reason why.”
Most of Renée’s policing career has been spent in an operational environment. The 10-plus years she spent in the high-stakes Diplomatic Protection world provided several 'pinch me' moments and experiences - be it the travel locations or meeting different world leaders.
Working as part of a tight team also helped formulate Renée’s leadership style - a team focus and collaborative approach.
Returning to work after the birth of her now 18-year-old son, Renée took up a role at The Royal New Zealand Police College as an instructor.
Undertaking a Masters of Māori and Indigenous Leadership programme alongside other indigenous whānau from around the world enabled her to stand in her mana motuhake (self determination).
“The programme grew a fire in my belly. I’ve learned that being in the fighting stance isn’t always the best way to influence positive change.
“The key values I am guided by are Relationships, Respect, Responsibility, Reciprocity, and Redistribution. These align perfectly with Police values.”
In all her roles within Police, Renée has strived to build people up and make a difference in the lives of members of the community. This can be seen in her time within Road Policing, volunteering to promote te reo rangatira, her support of wāhine Māori within Police and her role supporting the Commissioner.
In June, Renée was the recipient of the Overall and Most Outstanding Wāhine Leadership awards at the inaugural Mana Wāhine Awards, celebrating the contribution of Māori, Pasifika, and ethnic women to improving policing and ensuring policing services are enhanced for communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Wellington District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell was pleased to welcome Renée. She joins the wider cohort of district leaders who serve as guardians for the people and communities of Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
He shared some of the attributes the interviewing panel saw in Renée that led them to believe she was right for this role at this time.
“She has shown outstanding commitment to our communities and our organisation," said Corrie.
“Renée is confident in herself while maintaining a state of humbleness and composure. She demonstrates attributes of servant leadership, reflective practice based in tikanga and Māori values, and a high degree of resilience which brings significant value to the role of Kāpiti-Mana Area Commander."
“Thank you to the members of the Police whānau who came to support me today, friends, and most importantly my whānau. I feel elated, yet grounded, nervous yet supported and above all, ready to take on the challenge” - Renée.