BY JULIA WADE
After 46 years of donning the blue uniform, Mangawhai’s long-serving and highly-esteemed police officer, is handing in his cuffs, hanging up his hat and stepping away from the thin blue line.
Senior Constable Graham Gough, affectionately known as ‘Goughy’ to locals, has decided now is the right time to retire from the police force. He was officially released from duty on November 16.
“It’s time to call it full time,” he says. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself in the police and take with me many memorable occasions.”
Some Mangawhai locals have expressed concern about losing their residential officer and have begun a petition to request the appointment of a replacement. In his customary care for the community, Goughy wants to reassure the community that, as far as he is aware, the position for a residential officer has been advertised.
“It will take time, there is a process, but an officer will be stationed in Mangawhai,” he says, “In the interim, Constable (Dale) Wewege will still be here and Wellsford officers will continue to cover the area.”
Goughy decided while still a senior student at Kelston Boys High School that a life of fighting crime and helping people was for him after he attended a talk about police work by newly recruited officer Ross Ardern, father of New Zealand’s current Prime Minister.
“He inspired me to think ‘that’s a job I can do’, a type of work that has a lot of variety in it, you don’t know what you’ll be doing one minute to the next.”
From dangling by helicopters in cannabis recovery, to search-and-rescue, tracking down fugitives, wrestling with criminals, walking the beat in several Kiwi towns, surviving assaults and becoming a valued and respected figure in Mangawhai, Goughy’s long-term policing career appears to have fulfilled his expectations.
With the call to a life of adventure and excitement beckoning, the young 19-year-old signed up for the three months training, ‘much to the chagrin of my mother’ he says, who wanted her son to train for an office position.
“Couldn’t imagine myself stuck to a desk… so I left my mother crying at the railway station and jumped on the train to Trentham Police College in Wellington, and on September 4, 1972 I was sworn in as a constable,” he says. “Upon graduation we were given two choices on where we would like to be stationed. I applied for Whangarei or Auckland… so they sent me to Gisborne!”
While on the beat around the rural roads of the east coast town, Gough met a young nurse and his wife-to-be. Sheila and Graham married in August 1974 and moved to Whangarei where he served for two years. Gough says he had two ambitious directions in the force, to be either a dog handler or a country police officer, despite being raised in New Lynn and admitting to being a ‘westie’. After missing out ‘by the skin of his teeth’ for several positions to work with a canine partner, in 1976 he accepted a posting for a second constable in Waipu.
“I policed a huge area, from Ruakaka in the north, to Topuni in the south, Ararua in the west and Mangawhai in the east. That was my beat for several years. I got to know a lot of people in rural areas, and gained a wide knowledge-base of people and places.”
In 1980 Goughy was successful in being appointed sole charge of Maungaturoto station although he still attended serious crimes in Mangawhai, with both Northland stations eventually coming under the jurisdiction of Wellsford Police. After 11 years, he made another shift, becoming Mangawhai’s local constable in December 1991 due to a petition instigated by local Gaye Burt calling out for a residential police officer, and an election promise from the then police spokesperson John Banks.
“Nowadays when you apply for positions you’ve got to have functional CV’s and go through an interview process, but I was appointed on, and I’m not ashamed to say, the ‘old boy’s network’, I knew a few people, made a few phone calls, and was also recommended by Gaye,” he says. “Around the same time however, I was also offered a position as a dog handler in Whangarei. It was bad timing though as my wife’s father had just passed on so I had to decide whether to be a single dog-handler or a married country constable… I’m still married so… it was an easy choice.”
Stand-out policing memories in his career include both exciting and traumatic events such as swinging beneath a helicopter in a bright orange vest while being lowered into cannabis plantations to ready the plants for recovery.
“Biggest adrenaline rush, enjoyable but at the same time frightening as I felt like a big orange target, felt very vulnerable.”
As a young officer in September 1975, Goughy was also part of the search and rescue squad after the Interislander freighter Capitaine Bougainville caught fire off the coast of Whananaki, resulting in the tragic loss of 16 passengers including babies and children.
“Spent two weeks recovering bodies in various states which had quite a traumatic effect on me and took me a while to come to terms with,” he says. “At this stage NZ Police didn’t offer any form of counselling, you were just expected to take a teaspoon of cement and harden up.”
The event he says played ‘a large part in my policing’ and still affects him to this day although he feels better equipped now to cope with traumatic events such as suicides and fatal car accidents.
Over the 46 years, Goughy’s own well-being has also come under threat, in particular two occasions where he was seriously assaulted over incidents that ‘blew up out of nothing’. On a graveyard shift in the early 80’s, three gang members beat him with a steel tyre anchor and kicked him in the mouth at a petrol station in Maungaturoto. The unprovoked attack came after Goughy saw shadowy activity around a petrol pump and believed the figures to be local kids siphoning gas. His injuries included a head injury, split lips and lost teeth.
“The community was so caring of me and my family, bringing me food and well wishes. If I hadn’t received that support I don’t know whether I would have stayed in the police,” he says. “Also had people volunteering to come with me on patrol… I found out at that time that I had a community that cared about me as much as I cared about them.”
Bravely, once recovered, Goughy made a point of returning to the scene of the assault to walk the area at night, alone with no torch.
“Hairs were sticking up on the back of my neck but if I’m too scared to do my job, I can’t do it. It’s like jumping back on the horse.”
In 2004, he suffered another serious head injury, blood loss and concussion, after being violently assaulted by a young man suffering with mental health issues, and wielding a chiseled steel wrecking bar used for breaking up concrete.
“While waiting for help to arrive, I remember sitting in my car, bleeding profusely from being smashed on the head with the bar, feeling confused and watching my life flow away, my blue shirt becoming crimson,” he says. “Funny thing is when the ambulance arrived, the local officer Sharon Radford put her thumbs straight in the wound to stop the bleeding, I remember telling her ‘ow, you’re hurting me’.”
The attack sparked further community concern as well as wide media interest, with a superintendent quoting the local constable who bears a ‘Long service and good conduct medal and three yellow bars’, as a ‘gold nugget’. Despite the attacks, Gough says that the majority of people he has dealt with are ‘really decent’ with only a few ‘ratbags occasionally spoiling things’.
“Community support makes the difference, it’s always good to feel needed. I remember being called to escort a trespassed person from a local tavern, a man well-known to police. I’m walking towards this guy and the locals were saying ‘we’re with you Graham’. Magical words that any sole officer loves to hear! Maintaining my credibility has been everything in my job, to keep that respect.”
Retirement plans include having an actual ‘normal family Christmas dinner and holiday’ for the first time since dedicating himself to Mangawhai in 1991. Going fishing and diving – Gough’s two main interests – whenever he wants are high on his list, as well as doing up the house and relaxing for a while. He says he will miss the job but hints there is a possibility of other part-time employment opportunities ‘down the track’.
“Just want to say, on behalf of my family and I, how much we’ve enjoyed policing Mangawhai, it’s a community we care deeply about,” he says. “We’ve had a very enjoyable family life raising our children here. We are now grandparents and we’re going to continue to live here… so you’ll still see me about.”
“Community support makes the difference, it’s always good to feel needed.”
“The community was so caring of me and my family… If I hadn’t received that support I don’t know whether I would have stayed in the police.”
Retiring Senior Constable Graham Gough (right) with Constable Dale Wewege. “It’s important for any rural officer to be visible, to live in the community they’re policing, to stop and talk to people and be part of that community,” says Gough.
Goughy, pictured at his desk in 2016, says he will miss the job, but is planning a normal Christmas dinner and holiday. (PHOTO/Supplied)