‘Uncomfortable’: Top cop has fishing boat called ‘Dawn Raid’

Northland police district commander superintendent Tony Hill says he is “uncomfortable” having a fishing boat called Dawn Raid and is changing its name.

The Prime Minister has announced that an apology will be made to New Zealand’s Pasifika communities for the dawn raids that targeted those communities between 1974 and 1976.

Hill said: “After the dawn raids issue came into the spotlight at the beginning of last week, it brought to my awareness the issues that could be perceived around the name of my boat and I felt uncomfortable with keeping its name.”

Hill said the name Dawn Raid was one he had used for 26 years after buying his first boat and needing to name it so he could get a Maritime VHF licence.

“At the time, I chose to name it Dawn Raid for my passion for early morning fishing trips. I did not in any way connect it to the Dawn Raids carried out in the mid-1970s.I was at primary school in the mid-1970s.”

Hill said he had since had several boats and carried the name across because it was attached to the VHF licence.

“I have in recent times felt uncomfortable with the name of my boat and recently I took steps to formally change the name.”

After Ardern’s apology, Hill entered the Blu Heelers police fishing competition, and registered his boat under a different name.

Hill said he would be updating the VHF licence with the new name and was trying to find the easiest way to remove the Dawn Raid name without having to repaint the entire boat.

Fale Pasifika Te Taitokerau co-chairman Johnny Kumitau said the recent realisation of the significance of the term dawn raid was a reflection of the depth of knowledge and understanding outside Pasifika communities.

“Good on him for recognising that. It’s the start of something for all of us moving forward. Everyone is aware of it now and everyone is starting to talk about it.

Kumitau used the same word as Hill about the issue – “uncomfortable” – and questioned whether the connotation it carried would have occurred without the apology being offered.

“It’s where to from here, and how to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other cultures or any other people.”

Kumitau said the publicity around the apology announcement had raised wider community awareness of an issue that Pasifika communities had carried for decades.

Hill started with the police in 1990 as a new graduate, working in Whangārei for the first three years of his career. In 1996, he became a detective and was posted to Canterbury where he spent two decades. The years before his return to Northland were marked by policing through the earthquakes and the Port Hills fires.

The dawn raids of the 1970s came out of a targeted enforcement of immigration policies that raided Pasifika homes late at night or early in the morning in search of those not legally allowed in the country.

It followed two decades of New Zealand actively seeking out people from the Pacific islands to be workers for primary industries. When the economy took a dive in the early 1970s, there were 5000-12,000 overstayers.

The Government tasked immigration officials with reducing the number, leading to the targeting of Pacific communities. Data later showed 40 per cent of overstayers did not come from Pacific nations but from the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries.

The apology followed a 50-year campaign by the Polynesian Panther advocacy and protest group. Cabinet considered and approved the apology last week. It was to be delivered this weekend in Auckland but heightened concern over mass gatherings and Covid-19 has postponed it.

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