'It set me up for my success': Pioneering policewoman highlights rural posting

Inspector Fiona Prestidge left the police after a career of 34 years.
Inspector Fiona Prestidge left the police after a career of 34 years. Photo credit: Supplied

A pioneering New Zealand policewoman has credited her time spent in a rural community as setting her up for her success in the police.

Inspector Fiona Prestidge left the police after a career of 34 years and was farewelled at Police National Headquarters.

She was one of just four women among the 100 members of Recruit Wing 96 when she graduated in 1985, at the age of 19.

Inspector Prestidge was posted to her home city of Lower Hutt and scored a number of firsts for women as her career progressed through the Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, Henderson and New Plymouth.

Inspector Fiona Prestidge graduated in 1985, at the age of 19.
Inspector Fiona Prestidge graduated in 1985, at the age of 19. Photo credit: Supplied

She was also the first woman appointed to a one or two-person station, spending two years at Featherston - a high-profile appointment given her gender, relative youth at 22 and the fact that she replaced an officer whose garage had been blown up by a bomb.

In 1994 she became the first female sergeant appointed in Waitakere District and later the first female senior sergeant in New Plymouth.

When she became New Plymouth Area Commander In 2006, she was the first mother to be appointed a commissioned officer.

Flexible Employment Opportunities were not available until after the birth of her third child.

Inspector Prestidge was farewelled at National Police Headquarters.
Inspector Prestidge was farewelled at National Police Headquarters. Photo credit: Supplied

Her final role was as senior advisor in the Policy Group. 

She said while it was hard to pick highlights from her career, her posting to the two-person Featherston station - where she worked alone and on-call, covering a huge rural area - was a significant time.

"That's when I knew that I could be a good cop," she said.

"It set me up for my success in my career. I proved to myself what I could achieve," said Inspector Prestidge.

Fiona said when she joined the police as a 19-year-old, she thought she might serve for five years before moving on.

"I've loved my whole career," she says, 34 years later. "I've been deeply committed to police and all it aims to be."

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