Last parade for retiring cop
Sunday will be the last time Don Stuart casts his watchful eye over the Auckland Santa parade.
Since 1977 the traffic cop come policeman has ensured the safety of the crowd and the flow of traffic for the annual event - and for the past 30 years he has been the senior sergeant in charge of doing so.
"I've never missed one, it's just the way it's worked out. I always seemed to be around."
Mr Stuart is the Auckland police district's second in charge of operations planning and retires on December 14.
Over his career he has managed the traffic for thousands of events, visiting dignitaries and political protests.
Whether it was the Rugby World Cup, Christmas in the Park or Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral, the Beachlands resident wrote the traffic plan to keep everyone safe.
On Sunday he will be watching an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people on about 30 screens in the Auckland Transport control room.
"It would be the biggest annual parade in New Zealand, there would be nothing else as big as this," he says.
Mr Stuart holds a SIS security clearance and has organised thousands of motorcades for guests of the state, including 16 in three days for the recent royal visit of Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.
He is usually the lead driver on motorcades and works with Auckland Transport to facilitate the motorcade using the Sydney Co-ordinated Adaptive Traffic System.
"We do green waving all the time. It doesn't matter where we go, we control the lights," he says.
Police motorcyclists "leap frog" each other to ensure members of the public do not run red lights.
"And all this time there's traffic just coming at you that we actually get rid of. It's quite exciting work in a way."
During his time in charge of motorcades there has not been any "preventable incidents".
Mr Stuart says the biggest issue at the annual Santa parade is lost children.
But a well-tested procedure invariably finds the child close to where they went missing within the throng of people and a constable waits with them until they are reunited.
"It's never happened that we've been left with a child at the end of the day."
The safety of the parade has increased over the years with more requirements for floats, restrictions for onlookers and no more lollies thrown out.
"One of the funniest things to happen was the Santa float broke down about 15 years ago and we had to put Santa in the rear police car," he says.
"I always say to the staff, and I'll be saying this again at the briefing on Sunday, to just remember it's a fun day and if you want to interact with the public, feel free."
Mr Stuart thanks all the protest, event and parade organisers who have worked hard with him for their events to run smoothly, including Santa parade organiser Pam Glaser.
He says the parade nearly always has good weather and "it's looking good for this weekend too".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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