Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard
Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Firstly, can I acknowledge the Prime Minister for her comments. Thank you. Can I also acknowledge our leader for allowing me to take the call today. Matthew Hunt was not a stranger to me, and he is from my own home town of Ōrewa.
On Friday, 19 June 2020, at 10.30 a.m., Constable Matthew Dennis Hunt and his partner were shot in the line of duty. Matthew didn’t survive his injuries. He was a loving, protective son of Diane and trusted big brother of Eleanor—a tight family unit of three. I have been given the honour to share some of Diane’s words with you here today, supported by Matt’s father, Graeme, and his uncle and his auntie, Robert and Wendy.
The first thing Diane wants to do is thank the New Zealand Police family, who have provided absolutely amazing support with their wraparound care and love of all the family since Friday. These are Diane’s words: “My son has a huge team behind him. Everyone who knew Matthew knew him to be a selfless man of huge integrity. He loved serving the community. He loved serving his community and protecting his fellow New Zealanders. My heart is crying out that this was so unnecessary and tragic. He graduated with a degree in criminology from AUT, and before joining the police, Matthew worked as a case manager for Corrections and was proud of his role in helping prisoners to reintegrate with society. He was also a great paperboy. My beautiful boy—28 years young—will never have another birthday. Matthew was raised on the Hibiscus Coast. He was a coastie. He had all the traits of a classic coastie: laid-back and calm, community-focused, and always with a beaming smile.”
Kate Shevland, his principal from Ōrewa College—or “OC”, as we know it—shared some memories of Matt that were put together by Matt’s mates and staff members who taught him. I’d like to share some of those with you. Outdoor education: “Matt was an absolute legend. He was part of the first ever level 3 outdoor education programme at Ōrewa College and planned trips such as a snow camp to Mount Ruapehu and a surf camp to Tāwharanui. He was in the first ever Survivor Ōrewa, a hotly contested part of the programme. The outdoor education units he helped to plan are still part of the course 10 years later. He was liked by all his peers, warm natured, and gave everything a go—an amazing student.”
His English teacher: “Matt was an undercover academic. He would be up there with his mates playing practical jokes on everyone, teachers included, and would then invariably meet his deadlines, with high-level work, and surprise us all.”
Sports: “Matt and his friends were a tight group and competed for many different sports while at OC together, all in the name of fun. Playing squash for two years, they proved they weren’t the greatest squash players, but they had fun doing it. Matt also played golf, bowls, and softball. In 2009, he was part of our first team to attend the secondary school softball nationals in Tauranga. In softball speak, boy did he have an arm. We needed him in the outfield, because he could throw a ball so fast and accurately from fielding it in the outskirts of the outfield that it would go straight into the infield, no need for a cut-off. On one play, he threw the ball from the back of centre outfield straight to the catcher at the home plate to get an outstanding out. We remember his beaming smile yet casual, humble manner, while everyone else in the team went nuts at how fast and smooth the throw was. He was an excellent role model for younger players, keen to learn and humble in his achievements. He was always the first to offer help to the coaches, managers, the scorers and our team umpire, and the first to thank us all for coaching and feeding them. As a founding team member, he was part of setting the goal for the following year to take out the Nationals title, which we did. Canadian softball visitors who played for HBC Softball Club said of Matt, “He was one of the boys that made us feel so loved and welcome here during our stay. One of the kindest, most caring guys we’ve ever met.”
He was looked up to as a kind, caring person who had a good outlook on life and a lot to give. We already miss him.
I want to acknowledge District Commander Naila Hassan, who has shown strength and compassion in the days following Matt’s death. I’d also like to acknowledge Matt’s police family in Ōrewa: Area Commander Mark Fergus and his entire team. Mark, and Matthew’s supervisors, had this to say about him, “Matt is remembered by his supervisors as a highly intelligent and professional officer, one who is diligent and committed to keeping safe the community that he grew up in. He had a promising career ahead of him and intended to take on the challenge of becoming a detective in our criminal investigation branch. He was expected to excel in that role. He was rated very highly by his supervisors and was held in the highest trust and integrity.”
On Friday evening, I had the privilege of joining Matt’s section, friends, and colleagues who came together to support one another and talk through the tragedy that had unfolded earlier that day. The stories and memories of Matt had a common theme: he was a deeply kind young man, and no-one could recount a time when Matt had a bad word for anyone. He was known for his calm and considerate approach to his policing. He had developed the art of de-escalating tense or potentially violent situations. One story was an incident he had attended where he was confronted by an offender armed with a knife. Although he would have been completely justified in using other tactical options, he used a calm, clear, direct communication to completely de-escalate the situation and have the offender put the knife down. He is much loved by his police family, and our community.
Matt, you aren’t here to put your strong arms around your Mum, or your sister, but know that your police family and community are putting our strong arms around them for you. When I was a young constable in 1991, a song from The Hollies was used in a police video highlighting the importance of police and community working together to make our community safer. The words from this song are still as relevant today as they were 28 years ago, when Matt was just a baby. The words to the song go like this:
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
The load doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.