New beat for couple after life-changing move

Meredith and Ian Kerrisk are looking forward to their new lives at Dunstan House, in Clyde. The...
Meredith and Ian Kerrisk are looking forward to their new lives at Dunstan House, in Clyde. The Kerrisks, who have bought Dunstan House from John and Maree Davidson, take over the business on February 20. Photo: Pam Jones
Central Otago couple Ian and Meredith Kerrisk have experienced  myriad  emotions in the past few weeks after a life-changing move that has shifted them into another sector of the community.

But as well as excitement and anticipation from their purchase of Dunstan House and "some sadness" for Mr Kerrisk at ending a long career in the police force, there is one over-arching feeling in Mrs Kerrisk’s mind.

Now that her husband has retired,  it feels like she has got her husband back, she says.

For her entire married life, she had loaned her husband to the community for an almost 24/7 role in which he had faced  a stream of emotionally charged and life-and-death situations.

Mr Kerrisk — who retired last month as the Central Otago sub-area supervisor after  37 years in the police force — said his career had provided him with a great sense of satisfaction, and he had loved helping the community.

Mr Kerrisk joined the police  in 1981 aged 19 and later spent many years as a detective and in the armed offenders squad in the North Island. High-profile cases he worked on included the Raurimu massacre in 1997. He also did undercover work in the South Island.

He and Mrs Kerrisk came to Alexandra in 2001 and he was made Central Otago sub-area supervisor in 2012.

He observed a series of high-profile cases in Central Otago over the years.Mr Kerrisk said the Cribb case — when former Alexandra senior constable Neil Ford lied about crashing into a car driven by Shane Cribb in Earnscleugh in 2005, and some other Alexandra officers either lied too or did not speak up, knowing Ford was lying — still weighed heavily on the minds of officers who were angry about the case and tried to see justice done.

He said Alexandra police came close to losing total public confidence at the time.

But he gives "full credit" to Alexandra man Steve Potter for fighting to ensure the truth  came out, and to Mr Cribb for his composure and ability to move on after the incident once it was dealt with (Ford was subsequently found guilty of perjury, and  Mr Cribb’s conviction for careless driving causing injury was quashed).

Mr Kerrisk said the Cribb case was a "huge reminder" of how careful police always needed to be and that proper systems needed to be in place for dealing with anything that went wrong. Police had moved on since then, and

the public could have faith in the current Central Otago police force, who cared about their community.

Mr Kerrisk said he preferred not to comment on other cases that made the headlines over the years.

They include an off-duty Alexandra officer filming a girl in the shower on his police-issue iPhone in 2014 and Central Otago officers bungling the investigation into out-of-town officers allegedly poaching in Central Otago in 2016. At the time Mr Kerrisk was clearly frustrated by the incidents, but publicly he always stressed they were the isolated actions of individuals, and the vast majority of police were doing exemplary work.

But he this week commented briefly on the case of alleged police harassment of two Alexandra teenagers in 2014. The teenagers received a written apology from then-senior sergeant Kerrisk on behalf of the police force; at the time the parent of one of the teenagers said their family was grateful for the apology and the way Mr Kerrisk  had resolved the issue once it came to his attention.

In reference to the case, Mr Kerrisk said he wanted to say "sometimes decisions I have made have been scrutinised by police. But I stand by them [the decisions]".

Mrs Kerrisk said she thought her husband had been intuitive and guided by his empathy for victims when making  decisions as an officer. She said he had been "ahead of his time" in the way he informally pursued a philosophy now termed "alternative resolutions" by national police.Mr Kerrisk said although there was "some sadness" at eventually retiring, "it was the right time" to move on to something else and he was leaving for "the right reasons".

"I’ve done my job, I believe really well, and police are in a good place in Central Otago. I will always hold my head high. I’m proud of what I’ve done."

He said eventually he would apply his police skills to other community initiatives, and he planned to "give back" in other formal or informal ways.

But for now, his ‘‘full attention’’ is on a new adventure he is embracing, the purchase of the historic Dunstan House business in Clyde.

For Mrs Kerrisk, it is almost like coming home.Her family, which moved to Clyde when she was a child, has a long history in the hospitality industry.

Their family ran a bakery in the stables at Olivers and her brother Michael Coughlin was the chef at Olivers during the 1980s when it was run by Fleur Sullivan.

Mrs Kerrisk’s family later set up a bakery and then a restaurant in Alexandra.

Mrs Kerrisk then went on to another stage in her hospitality career, working in food and hotel management in Dunedin, Queenstown and the North Island. She later retrained in IT and accounting, and for the past 10 years has been working at the Central Otago District Council, where she is now the executive assistant in the infrastructure department.

The Kerrisks have two daughters, Riva (19) and Tansy (14).

Mrs Kerrisk said she loved the people and the "buzz "of the hospitality industry. Mr Kerrisk said he was also a "people person", and the couple were looking forward to the interaction with the public Dunstan House would bring.

They considered themselves lucky to have been chosen by Dunstan House owners John and Maree Davidson to be the next caretakers of the "iconic" building in Clyde’s historic heart.

"You come here [to Clyde] and go ‘wow’, and now we’re going to be part of that," Mr Kerrisk said.

They planned to keep providing the high quality of service for which the Davidsons were known, and might also eventually consider introducing new dining ventures in Dunstan House’s "beautiful" dining area.

Mr Kerrisk said when he heard emergency sirens on the street or in the distance these days, he felt safe on behalf of the community, because he knew honourable and experienced police, fire and St John personnel were doing what needed to be done, and the public was in safe hands.

pam.jones@odt.co.nz  

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