BY JULIA WADE
An officer with a passion for policing and keeping people safe has recently stepped into the boots worn for 25 years by former community constable Graham Gough.
Leaving behind 16 years of frontline policing in Counties Manukau, five as a sergeant, the universe appeared to have aligned for the now-Senior Constable Rob Cato, who took up his official office in mid-January and joined Constable Dale Wewege as Mangawhai’s police.
However the move north for Cato and family, wife Carmen, 11-year-old daughter Mollie and 8-year-old son Ethan, was actually at first unrelated to the police position, inspired initially by Carmen’s parents who have recently retired in the area after owning a bach in Mangawhai for over ten years. Cato says a week after floating the idea of moving to Mangawhai to Carmen, Rob’s best friend sent him a snapshot of the Focus article on Goughy’s retirement.
“My friend said, this is a sign… and everything just fell into place,” he says. “I was looking out for the next stint in policing… one of my goals was always to work in a rural community so the job was timely. I made enquiries to see if I would be the right fit for the position and was encouraged by another friend who had worked with Goughy in the past.”
Previously working as a builder, Cato says he always had a desire to join the force but admits a lack of confidence, and a belief he would not pass the necessary exams due to ‘not doing so well at school, apart from sport’ held him back. However, thanks to Carmen’s encouragement, he took the plunge and applied.
“I love working for the police,” the avid hunter says. “I even have a mantra ‘when I’m at home asleep I want to be safe, I want the cops who are working to be looking out for me’. I have high expectations for myself to help keep people safe and track down individuals who are out to cause harm to people or property.”
The transfer not only means a welcome change of lifestyle for the family, ‘everyone has been so warm and friendly’, but also offers a different type of policing for Cato, a change of pace.
“In Counties we’d have a large volume of calls… up here I’ve found I might go a few shifts without even being called to a job,” he says. “Which means there is more opportunity to do the proactive, preventive type of policing, more community based, being more visible, building relationships, just being more personable.”
Aware of the differences between working in a big city compared to a small rural township, as well as the importance of establishing positive relationships within the community, Cato has already met with Mangawhai’s Community Patrol who ‘do an amazing job’ and plans on catching up with Goughy. He says he has already received some good feedback from the community with people noticing him driving the police wagon around. His identity as the ‘local cop’ is steadily being established.
“People seem to like the idea I’m living locally. Police always need the community onside, we cannot do our job without that support,” he says. “However there is a balance, I take road policing very seriously, especially drunk driving, speeding and people wearing no seatbelts. I’ve really noticed the number of people in the area who do not wear a seatbelt and ignore speed restrictions.”
Although Cato says he will not ticket everyone he pulls over sometimes choosing instead to issue warnings, he is passionate about preventing crime and harm, and keeping people safe on the roads. He makes no apologies for coming down hard on those who ‘drive like an idiot’.
“Drivers who speed, cross the centre line or overtake dangerously… they are a risk to everyone,” he says. “However if you’re wearing your seatbelt and doing the speed limit I won’t be pulling you over, I’ll be more than happy to go for a whole day to not have to give out a ticket… that would be a great day for me.”
Fair, friendly and firm; Mangawhai is in safer hands with the arrival of new Senior Constable Rob Cato, who is passionate about keeping people safe and maintaining road rules. “I like that police now look for more alternative resolutions, rather than charging everybody, which has its place but is not always the answer.”
“I have high expectations for myself to help keep people safe and track down individuals who are out to cause harm to people or property.”