Wellington's first female maritime cop

Policewoman can't wait for southerly swell

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2014
Paula Tanuvasa
ROBERT KITCHIN/ Fairfax NZ

AHOY THERE: Constable Paula Tanuvasa practises using a line-throwing rocket aboard the police launch Lady Elizabeth IV. She’s looking forward to testing her sealers.

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Paula Tanuvasa is making waves as the first policewoman to call Wellington Harbour her office.

The experienced constable has traded in forensic photography for making rescues and catching marine poachers.

Taking up the spot aboard the police launch Lady Elizabeth IV makes Tanuvasa the Wellington maritime unit's first female crewmember.

Her new colleagues have converted the laundry at their headquarters on Queens Wharf into a locker room to accommodate the new recruit - even gifting her a pink padlock.

Constable Alison Campkin, who is a senior launchmaster with the Auckland police maritime unit, is the only other maritime policewoman on New Zealand waters.

Tanuvasa is officially still in training, but she already had her sea legs by the time she locked her sights on joining the maritime unit - and was proud to achieve the milestone.

"There doesn't appear to be a lot of women working on the water. It was quite a positive thing to get here."

A childhood spent diving and fishing in the Bay of Plenty town of Katikati helped her marine credibility - as did her boat-owner status. However, she has just traded in her Buccaneer runabout to help her 15-year-old daughter get an exchange to France.

Tanuvasa is itching to prove her seaworthiness in the rough Cook Strait. "Getting out in the big swell in a strong southerly, that's what I'm looking forward to - testing out how good my sea legs really are."

She began her career as a travel agent, but said that, by her 30s, she was yearning for a challenge.

She joined Wellington police 13 years ago and, after five years on the frontline, transferred to forensic photography.

In 2011, that speciality took her to Christchurch as part of the the disaster victim identification team.

She acknowledged that her past line of work was gruelling.

"It was all about the families of the victims. I wanted to give the best chance for people to be able to be identified for their families."

There are roughly 1700 women in the police force, or about a fifth of the sworn ranks. So far, three have reached the rank of superintendent.

One of the first moves by new Police Commissioner Mike Bush was to announce a drive to recruit more policewomen to address their under-representation in the senior ranks.

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- The Dominion Post

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