Friday, 23 February 2024 - 12:15pm

A new chapter ahead

4 min read

News article photos (4 items)

The role of Assistant Commissioner Investigations awaits Superintendent Paul Basham.
Paul on patrol on the roads of Omarama.
On the ground for Op Convoy in Wellington.
With Constable Amanda Shute on a visit to a kindergarten in Queenstown.

Southern District’s top cop is adding a new chapter to an illustrious career, with a promotion and a move to Police National Headquarters.

After a seven-year period as one of the longest-serving Southern District Commanders in memory, Superintendent Paul Basham has been promoted to the role of Assistant Commissioner Investigations.

This position makes use of Paul’s previous experience within criminal investigations, both at home and abroad.

After joining New Zealand Police in 1985 and being stationed in Counties Manukau, Paul joined the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) in 1988 and qualified as a detective in 1991.

Working on a variety of serious criminal investigations, Paul remained in the CIB until 1995 when, on promotion, he returned to the General Duties Branch (GDB) as a patrol Sergeant in Otara. In 1996, he transferred back to CIB as a detective sergeant where he remained for a further two years leading a number of major criminal investigations.

Superintendent Paul Basham facing the media outside Southern District Headquarters. 
Superintendent Paul Basham facing the media outside Southern District Headquarters.

In 1998, Paul gained international experience when he took up a position in the Netherlands as a war crimes investigator with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Living in Holland, but working principally in Bosnia Herzegovina and travelling all over the world, Paul describes this time in his career as 'life-changing'. He remained with the War Crimes Tribunal for five years, returning to New Zealand Police in 2003.

“My time with the Tribunal was both humbling and rewarding,” says Paul. “Humbling, bearing witness to the courage of all those who were the victims of war crimes unparalleled at that time in Europe since the Second World War. Rewarding, in helping to bring those that perpetrated such atrocities to account for their crimes against humanity.

“I also developed a much deeper appreciation for what we have in New Zealand, how we stand in the world in terms of our own identity and our evolution as a country that lean on elements of that identity to help us deal with our problems in a way that is unique to us.”

However, his most recent lasting legacy in New Zealand Police will come from his time as Southern District Commander, a position he has held since 2017.

“Moving to Southern was an opportunity for my family and I to live and work in the mainland, which was a big part of the attraction for the role, and we certainly have made the most of the experiences that living in this part of Te Waipounamu can offer.”

Over his seven years as Southern District Commander Paul has overseen a raft of major events and incidents, sadly, many of them laden with tragedy.

“Dealing with death and tragedy are inevitable in policing and our staff deal with the intensity of these events and emotions on an almost daily basis. As awful as it is, some of these types of incidents will invariably stand out for our police officers against others.

"The list is regrettably long, but for me, the impact of former Constable Ben McLean’s murder of his wife in Invercargill just after I arrived in the district; attending a multiple fatal vehicle crash in Southland with Senior Sergeant Greg Ballantyne, Constable Julie Russell and other staff; and of course the recent death of Inspector James Ure come to mind for the tragedies that they were, but also the way our Police family pulled together to support one another and our communities through these difficult times.”


At Otakou Marae for the launch of Te Pae Oraka in Dunedin. 
At Otakou Marae for the launch of Te Pae Oraka in Dunedin.

Known for navigating these difficult events with an air of calm and reassurance, Paul is equally renowned for the progressive nature of leadership he brought to Southern, actively seeking to strengthen ties with key partners, especially local iwi.

Working with local mana whenua has been a highlight of my time in Southern. They have been without exception generous, kind and supportive of me as the District Commander, and more broadly of what we are doing to deepen our understanding of what it means to be ‘Committed to Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi’. 

"As a consequence, I believe we are more agile and able to leverage new opportunities, and face whatever challenges the future holds for us.”

Along with the extensive leadership experience and accomplishments, Paul will take a lot of fond memories with him from the south to Police National Headquarters in Wellington as he begins his new role as Assistant Commissioner Investigations.

“I am profoundly grateful to all the Southern staff I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside for their professionalism, their resilience and dedication to duty, and their kindness along the way.

"I am – and will always continue to be - incredibly proud to have been the District Commander for Southern.”

Paul begins his new role at Police National Headquarters in late March. Superintendent Jason Guthrie will be relieving as Southern District Commander for the transitional period of time while a new permanent Southern District Commander is appointed.