Police on duty at Waitangi have ditched their formal uniforms and have replaced them with a casual look to appear more approachable.
It comes following years of conflict and protests held in at Waitangi in a bid to help whānau feel more comfortable to mix and mingle with officers without feeling intimidated.
Officer Paul Tipene says, “The only way I can describe it is the fence comes down.
“It's a huge change of mindset not only in pirihimana but whānau. Now we engage a lot more freely. It's a positive progression from the days when it was on the other side of the bridge.”
The new uniforms include shorts, running shoes and different coloured polo shirts.
Tipene, of Ngāpuhi, has attended over 40 Waitangi Day celebrations and has worked as an officer for 19 of them.
He says in the past he’s dealt with a lot of physical conflict.
“Some of the physical conflict in the front line, having to man-handle whānau. You were always anxious anyway before you arrive at Waitangi," he says.
“Now that barrier, that fence has come down so it's an enjoyable day for everyone involved.”
Officer Ihaka Lenden has been in the job for around four years now.
“Moving into this uniform allows them to engage us and us to engage them without the barriers of being able to see the blue," he says.
“At the end of the day we're still people. We're whānau. We're the same tāngata, so being able to engage without that barrier makes kōrero easy.”
New focus for recruitment
As well as a change in uniform, many of the officers on duty are from the area.
Northland District Commander Inspector Riki Whiu says several years ago, police officers from around the country travelled to Waitangi to work during the celebrations.
But today officers have been recruited from the Northland area.
“We are looking in our own pātaka,” he says.
Whiu says there has also been a change of focus to keepipng people safe and providing manaakitanga.
“The face of Waitangi and policing has changed for the better and tikanga has had a part to play in that.”