Waiheke Island police officer farewelled
JESS ETHERIDGE AND DIANA WORTHY
About 400 friends, family and members of the police from around the country gathered at Waiheke Island's Piritahi Marae this afternoon to farewell senior constable Clint Vallender who died suddenly on Friday.
Vallender, 52, was looking for a person of interest to police when he collapsed in woods between Palm Beach and Onetangi.
He was found shortly after, around 2.45pm, by constable Raymond Matthews who tried to revive him but it was too late.
Initial findings of the post mortem indicate he suffered from a heart condition.
Vallender's family and partner Roz Pearce were welcomed onto the marae with a powhiri.
An official flag folding ceremony was held and about 50 police formed a guard of honour as the hearse carrying Vallender left the marae.
Family spokesman Chris Russell said Vallender was a farm boy but only if it involved riding a motorbike.
Vallender grew up in Manawatu, attending Palmerston North Boys' High before transferring to Te Aroha College in the Waikato.
A trained mechanic, Vallender worked on the Chatham Islands before taking a job with the Ministry of Transport and eventually joining the police.
Russell thanked the Waiheke and policing communities for taking care of Vallender.
Vallender met his partner of 20 years, Roz Pearce, through a mutual friend. The pair bonded over a love for outdoor pursuits, especially fishing.
Grant Pearce spoke on behalf of his sister, saying the avid Hurricanes fan would be missed but never forgotten.
Vallender's boss, sergeant Peter Knight, said the community had "lost a damn good officer".
Vallender had previously been stationed in Waimate and Taupo, and had worked at the Waiheke station for just a couple of years.
He was part of the 2004 cavalcade which took then Prime Minister Helen Clark from Waimate to Christchurch Airport so she could fly to a rugby match.
The cavalcade reached speeds of up to 170 kilometres an hour, and saw some police, including Vallender, taken to court.
Police association president Greg O'Connor said at today's funeral Vallender should never have been in court as he was just doing as he was told.
He was on duty at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 1995 and met the late Nelson Mandela.
The police Eagle helicopter flew over the marae during the flag folding ceremony. Representatives from the island's emergency services, including fire and St John, were in attendance.
A haka was performed as the funeral ended.