From working with farmers to identify drug use and prevent burglaries, to helping struggling families get mental health support and quelling local conflicts – Collette Corley (pictured) is the new pivotal link between Police and the heartland of King Country.
Based out of Otorohanga, the constable is one of Waikato District’s two newly established Rural Support Officers (RSOs).
It’s a prevention role that excites Collette and requires genuine interaction to become the “go-to” person for the region’s farming fraternities and rural families.
“I want to establish more communication between the rural communities and Police. I really love the people here – there’s a real sense of community, everyone helps each other out,” she says.
Colette began her career working the beat in Mt Wellington about 13 years ago where she met her husband, also a police officer at the time.
Tired of trying to get ahead in the big smoke, the couple moved to the bucolic outskirts of Otorohanga, about 55 kilometres south of Hamilton, where they purchased a lifestyle block and are raising their two young sons.
“We wanted to get ahead, and we wanted to live rurally,” she says.
Since returning to Police after a break two years ago, Collette, who was working with Te Kuiti PST, has been seeking a substantive prevention role that allows her the time to forge relationships with partners and the community.
“When you’re on PST you want to make a difference, but you get caught up in things and sometimes your intentions get waylaid into responding to incidents. When I saw this role, I thought what an amazing opportunity to sink my teeth into helping my community.”
Poachers, burglars and thieves are all in her sights.
“We know there are large issues with poachers and rural thefts that have a big impact on communities. Sometimes farm workers aren’t properly vetted, and we see employers having issues with drug use and manufacturing – and employers don’t necessarily know the signs to look for,” says Collette.
Four weeks into the role, Collette says she is enjoying meeting the locals and community partners, hearing their issues and what impacts them. Her patch stretches from south of the Te Kawa Crossroads near Te Awamutu, through the west coast to Piopio in the south.
“I’m loving it. I’ve got a huge area to cover and a lot of work to do.”
Although the towns face issues that feed into the outer areas, her focus is on prevention and partnerships in the deep heartland. It will be a challenge of this role.
“We have officers in the town with community cops – I’m focusing on rural – you can’t lose sight of that.”
Every day, Collette is looking at the incidents and reports, including thefts, burglaries and family harm incidents occurring in the rural areas and will then contact those victims to see how Police can provide support.
One day she is visiting a local school, and another she’s helping a struggling family whose mother is depressed and whose father is struggling to cope, to get the mental health support they need.
“I want to be visiting those people, giving them reassurance and seeing what else they need. It’s building partnerships with the rural community and being their go-to person for everything policing.”
Collette has already met with representatives from local councils to flesh out planning, consents and infrastructure across the district.