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Inspector Paula Enoka QSM has been officially welcomed as police Otago Lakes Central Area commander and the Southern District’s first wahine area commander.

A powerful haka performed by her nephews punctuated a powhiri to formally induct Insp Enoka in front of about 60 of her policing peers, whanau and iwi representatives at a powhiri at Dunstan High School’s whare whakaruruhau in Alexandra on Friday.

Following all traditional protocols, the ceremony began with Alexandra kaikaranga (callers) Francie Diver and Louise McKenzie calling the guests.

Kaumatua for Otago Lakes and Central area Taare Bradshaw said in his kaikorero (speech) he was so thrilled with Insp Enoka’s appointment he “cried tears of happiness”.

News of her ascension in police ranks had spread throughout Otago and Southland Maori.

Police kaumatua Herewini Neho, of Murihiku in Southland, said it was the first time he had appointed “one of my own” and issued a challenge to her police colleagues.

“She’ll look after you fellas, if you look after her.

“I know you’ll look after her.”

An emotional Insp Enoka then looked on as her nephews Ryan, Cory and Jared Enoka, all of Wanaka, performed a haka to close the ceremony.

The solemnity of the occasion was not lost on Insp Enoka, who is of Ngati Whatua iwi and Te Uri o Hau hapu, and it was particularly meaningful.

“Today is an especially special day for me to be welcomed into the bosom of the local iwi in such a special place for them and the iwi they represent.”

The induction coincided with her late mother’s birthday.

It was her mother who inspired her from childhood to lead with aroha and connection to people and it was those lessons she carried with her through her 20-year police career, she said.

She started her duties earlier this month.

“Being the first wahine area commander of Otago Lakes Central in Southern District is definitely not the goal, it’s part of the journey.

“I want to connect in with the community.

“The goal for me is to be my best, bring my best to work, and in doing so, my team can bring their best and be the best for what we are trying to achieve as police.”

Insp Enoka joined the police force in 2001 after a bachelor of commerce degree and considering a career as an accountant. She did not look back.

She represented New Zealand in hockey, playing for the Black Sticks at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, and was based with police in Wellington and then the Waitemata district. She served a year in Timor Leste as a detention centre commander from October 2006.

It was the latter that resulted in her being awarded a Queen’s Service Medal in 2008.

Her appointment as area commander comes after six years as Queenstown police station response manager.

Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham said her appointment was significant for the district and the powhiri marked a full-circle journey in the recruitment process as four “really strong” candidates had been interviewed in the same place.