People of the Airport - Fred Roberts

18 Sep 2023

PEOPLE OF THE AIRPORT: Not many people know that Wellington Airport has its own police station. Last week we farewelled Senior Constable Fred Roberts who is retiring after 50 years of service. As a tribute, the Airport Fire Service organised a water arch for him, and a special message broadcast was over the airport PA system.

Fred’s last day has been a busy one with gifts and special visitors including the Police Commissioner. He warns us he wants a good piece written up - “I am still a police officer till 4pm today!” In that case, let’s hear from Fred directly:

“I’m going to miss the comradeship and helping people. The airport has been a part of family.

“I’ve seen generations of the same families here come and go. People meet, get married and now some of their kids are working here.

“I started as a Traffic Officer back in 1973 because I got told I’ll get a new motorbike, which I did – a brand new 350 Triumph.

“The people and characters were a highlight. We had a lot of regular ‘clients’, and there was a lot more respect in those days. People called you ‘sir’ when you were writing them a ticket.

“It’s kind of weird but there was a quasi-respect from the criminal fraternity. It was just life, we didn’t take it personally.

“Once I had a regular ‘client’ stop and help me with a tricky case because he knew me, yet he had been that person a week earlier. You probably wouldn’t see that today.

“In 1992 I became a police officer when traffic officers were merged with the police. I ended up in CIB in Kilbirnie, then transferred to the airport around 20 years ago.

The highlights?

“Serving the people of the airport. This is a city and we have our own issues here; domestic cases, people needing help and support, and shoplifters.

“In 2006 I went to East Timor when the New Zealand Police provided staff to work in a peacekeeping roll for the UN. It was exciting, exhilarating, dangerous and satisfying.

“When we first got there we had Blackhawk helicopters hovering over our accommodation for hours. It was a very violent place with houses burning and people being killed – more than a little different from walking the beat at Wellington Airport!

“I’m proud to say the New Zealand Police played a part in bringing some peace and safety to the people, enabling them to run a lawful election. I felt quite stoked with our achievement and being part of that.”

How does Fred feel about retiring?

“Apprehensive. I’m going to let it happen organically, and I’m sure my family will find something to keep me in and out of trouble.”