Police haka to honour fallen Constable Matthew Hunt

By Jessica Tyson

Hundreds of NZ Police officers paid tribute to the late Constable Matthew Hunt, with a powerful haka that echoed through Eden Park during his funeral service yesterday.

About 1500 officers, led by Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, gathered at the stadium in Auckland together with family and friends of Hunt – a day short of three weeks since his death when he was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.

As well as the haka, there was a guard of honour, dogs, a piper plus a salute from the Eagle helicopter as the cortege arrived and departed.

Inside there were tears and laughter as speakers paid tribute to a son, brother, nephew, friend and valued colleague.

Haka to honour Constable Matthew Hunt / Source NZ Police

The commissioner led the police tribute. Coster said Hunt’s death had touched all New Zealanders.

He pledged that police would honour his memory by continuing to serve communities in the same spirit that Hunt brought to his work.

“We, together, will never forget him. We will continue to honour his life, his service and kindness to others, his integrity, his generosity; and we will honour it for generations to come," he said.

“We will do this in the way we go about our business, with the courage and compassion that Matt showed as he made his contribution to building a safer country for all who live or visit here.”

Also speaking was Sergeant Dean Taylor, Hunt’s supervisor in his hom town Orewa for most of his two years and eight months of service.

“Matt was a humble guy - he wouldn't have wanted any of this fuss," Taylor said.

“However Matt, on this occasion you deserve all this.”

Haka to honour Constable Matthew Hunt / Source NZ Police

Taylor remembered Hunt as quiet, methodical and eager to learn. He said Hunt was a perfectionist in his work and very particular about his appearance and had a fan club among the regular female clients at Orewa – including one who said she’d had her eyebrows done for him.

Taylor said Hunt’s ambition was to join CIB. He had been tackling increasingly complex investigative work and left Orewa shortly before his death to broaden his experience of policing at other stations before applying for CIB induction.

“That was Matt – humble, caring and proud. He made an impression on all who met him. He was so proud of wearing the uniform. I just want to finish by saying: Matt, rest in peace. I’ve got the team – you will not be forgotten.”

Three of Hunt’s closest friends shared their memories of him, from the ‘goofy little kid with purple-framed glasses and a questionable hairstyle” on his first day at school to the impeccably turned out young man “who had no idea how handsome he was.”

They recounted adventures at university, backpacking through Europe to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, flatting together, weddings, golf and lawn bowls. It was fitting to be at Eden Park, where they had spent happy times together watching rugby.

Matt’s uncle, Robert Winterbottom, and sister Ellie, shared their own memories. He had “found his forever family with police” his mother Diane said.

“Every day, in every way, you made me so, so proud to be your mother,” she said.

Funeral Guard / Source NZ Police

At the end of the service, Police pallbearers carried Matthew’s coffin out into the stadium, where the seat he occupied on his last visit, a few days before his death, has been designated a seat of honour in his memory.

On the pitch the flag from the coffin was carefully folded and presented to Matt’s family by Commissioner Coster.

Hundreds of colleagues performed a haka and the cortege pulled away, led by a piper, behind the goalposts and between the lines of impeccable blue uniforms.

Among the mourners were Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Police Minister Stuart Nash and Hunt’s colleague, who was also injured in the shooting on July 19.

Moe mai rā Matt - you will not be forgotten.

Funeral for Constable Matthew Hunt / Source NZ Police