From humble beginnings milking cows on the family farm at Whangaparoa, former Gisborne District Police Commander Superintendent Waata Shepherd is extending his career in another field. He talks to Marianne Gillingham . . .
Waata Shepherd has been appointed campus manager at EIT Tairāwhiti, replacing Wayne Spence, who retired this month.
Campus director Jan Mogford said he was selected from a strong pool of about 30 applicants, for his strong leadership skills and his background in financial and resource management.
Waata joined EIT in 2018, after retiring from the Police. He was invited to teach EIT’s services career pathway programme, for young people considering a career in the police, emergency or armed services.
The programme was a huge success, with the first repeat of the six-month course this year fully-subscribed, and places rapidly filling for the next intake in July.
Waata saw it as a way of giving something back to what he says has been a fantastic career path, and also an opportunity to work with promising young people. He found it really inspiring and says he will miss the direct contact with students.
But he believes he can contribute even more at a managerial level, using his networks, particularly in the Maori community, to help extend those of EIT.
Of Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahu descent, Waata Shepherd was born and bred at Whangaparoa (Cape Runaway), the fourth youngest in a family of 12 children. He grew up on the family farm, where the family ran dairy cows and grew their own vegetables, fruit and pork and made their own butter. His mother baked their own bread.
At the time Waata did not realise how hard they worked in those days. Waking up at 5am to milk the cows before heading to school, and returning to milk them again after school, plus attending to the many jobs on the farm, was accepted as just normal farming life.
Reflecting now, that sort of work could be considered hard work, all done manually without any of the technological and mechanical advances present today. But hard work stood them all in good stead. All the children went to boarding school, only two with scholarships; the cream cheques from milking the cows paid for the education that his parents valued.
The girls went to Queen Victoria Māori Girls’ School in Parnell and Waata and his brothers went to Hato Petera College on Auckland’s North Shore.
After leaving school Waata joined the Police, rising steadily through the ranks, predominantly in the Criminal Investigation Branch. He started in Rotorua, then was promoted to South Auckland, to Gisborne as a Senior Sergeant in 1992 before being appointed as Area Commander in South Taranaki in 1999. In 2002, he became Area Commander for the Gisborne District.
After leaving Gisborne in 2009, Waata went to Manly, Sydney, to join the Australian Institute of Police Management to deliver leadership programmes for all Australian State Police Services, NZ Police and Police jurisdictions across the Pacific.
He stayed there a year before returning to New Zealand where he was appointed to the rank of Superintendent at Police National Headquarters in Wellington working as the Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police working with 21 Police Commissioners across the Pacific with building capacity across their jurisdictions.
After 38 years in the force, Waata says he still misses aspects of the job, especially the camaraderie, but still stays in touch with his many former colleagues.
He likes to keep busy and active, being a self-confessed “gym junkie” when he’s not working or spending time with his family.
Waata and his wife Mereaira have three children and four grandchildren, most of them in Gisborne. He still enjoys going back home to the farm at Whangaparoa, where his sister is principal of Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa.
Thanks to her and his parents’ influence, numerous members of the family, including two of his children and himself, are now involved in the education sector.
Waata takes up his new position early next month, allowing time for the appointment and induction of his replacement.