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Trusted face of policing in leadership role 

Trusted face of policing in leadership role 

  • 19 Jul 2021
ava ceremony

Superintendent Willi Fanene is welcomed into his new role as National Partnerships Manager for Pacific Peoples for New Zealand Police at an ‘ava ceremony. 

A trusted face in policing in Pacific Aotearoa Superintendent Willi Fanene (Fata Willi) has been welcomed into a new role, as National Partnerships Manager for Pacific Peoples for New Zealand Police.

Led by the Leota family, an ‘ava ceremony was held for the Superintendent at Royal New Zealand Police College with Hon Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister of Justice and Courts in attendance.

Superintendent Fanene is one of nine children, who grew up in the central Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn.

While he was born in New Zealand, his parents and older siblings migrated from Samoa in the late 1940s.  

Like many Pacific school leavers of that era, Superintendent Fanene says he had wanted to attend University, but also wanted to support his parents.

“The Police seemed to pay well so I applied when I was 19, virtually just out of school, and I joined with the view it would only be a stop-gap measure. 

“However, after being called on many occasions to assist with incidents involving the Pacific community, where some individual's English was not great, I realised in some small way I could make a difference.

“It was then I realised the Police was my calling.” 

Joining the Police also allowed Superintendent Fanene to realise his other dream, by paying for him to go to university and gain a Law degree. 

“I went on to practise Law for the Police over six years,” he says.   

In a Police career spanning over four decades, the Superintendent has faced many challenges and many highlights. 

He is the only Pacific officer still in the Police, who witnessed several major events in the Pacific community’s early history in New Zealand.

As a child, Superintendent Fanene witnessed the formation of the first Pacific gang, King Cobras, and then as a young teenager, the first Polynesian advocacy group, the Polynesian Panthers. 

He experienced the impact of the immigration crackdown known as the Dawn Raids, when he and his school friends were often stopped by Police and asked for proof of identity. 

A huge ongoing challenge is overcoming racism and unconscious bias; while another big challenge was being ostracised by some family and community members for being in the Police during the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand, he says.

The infamous rugby tour was also a highlight during Superintendent Fanene’s career. 

“Police played a huge role in ensuring the country did not descend into a state of anarchy,” he says. 

Another highlight was the Christchurch earthquakes, where he and his colleagues ensured Pacific communities could access assistance, and that language and cultural issues would not be a barrier. 

In 2012, Superintendent Fanene provided training to Samoan Police and prosecutors from the Attorney-General’s office on their new Crimes Act which replaced the outdated Criminal Ordinance. 

“Supporting and advising the Samoan Government on organising the security arrangements for the 2014 United Nations Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference in Apia was a great experience; as was the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020, where Police worked collaboratively with Pacific representatives from other government agencies, Pacific non-government agencies, Pacific media, and Pacific service providers, to ensure our Pacific community received the assistance they required.” 

Superintendent Fanene has already had a rewarding career, and he intends to continue helping people not just in the Pacific community, but Pacific Police staff members to ensure they realise their aspirations. 

“It is also my aim to ensure there are long term strong collaborations between government and non-government agencies to support Pacific communities as we continually work to improve our levels of wellbeing.” 

Superintendent Fanene has been based at Police National Headquarters (PNHQ) since May where his fits into the new structure within Police Māori Pacific and Ethnic Services.

His position sits alongside Superintendent Anaru Pewhairangi, managing Māori, and Superintendent Rakesh Naidoo overseeing Ethnic partnerships.

Speaking at the ‘ava ceremony, Commissioner Andrew Coster welcomed Superintendent Fanene to his new role, saying over time, the Police has been building capability in the Pasifika space. 

“It is a pleasure to have Fata Willi at the higher level,” Commissioner Coster says. 

Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha adds Superintendent Fanene is the trusted face of policing in Pacific communities and is well-poised and prepared alongside Pacific people to provide the best possible advice. 

“This can be used to address significant issues of family harm, youth and road trauma as they impact on Pacific people,” he says.

Photo credit: NZ Police.