While most young boys growing up in the 60s and 70s spent their Saturday mornings watching Bonanza, Bill Eivers (Sargood 1976-1979) was busy living the real thing on his family’s 14,000ha station.
It was there, between the rolling hills of the rural East Coast, that his love of animals grew into a job that now sees the Senior Constable hit the annual trade shows with his colleague, an 18-year-old chestnut mare named Ali.
In hindsight, his future as a mounted police officer seems inevitable.
His father, a farmer and keen equestrian, had a large staff of shepherds who used horses every day with young Bill often joining them on their excursions.
“I used to ride around the farm with a piece of string around the horse’s nose and was frequently wiped out on trees and gate posts.”
However Bill insists he had no inkling of his career path as a young lad who, by his own admission, “failed miserably” academically at St Paul’s.
“At boarding school all I wanted was to be at home with my horses. That was always my passion.”
Upon leaving St Paul’s Bill stepped straight into the family business, farming for 13 years on the East Coast and Central Otago, which he punctuated with Polo and “a bit of rodeo riding on bulls and bareback horses.”
Push came to shove in the 1980s. With an economic downturn in full swing and a young family to feed, Bill looked to the New Zealand Police to provide him with more “positive prospects”.
After successive stints as a traffic officer, a dog handler on the armed offenders’ squad and a deployment to the Solomon Islands during the period of civil tensions, Bill relocated to Benneydale as their sole officer.
Life in the sleepy King Country town of just 200 people is a stark contrast to his previous postings but it has given Bill the opportunity to combine his lifelong passion with his day job.
Although the New Zealand Police’s mounted division officially dissolved in 1953 with mounted officers only used occasionally for special events, Bill still brings Ali along on his day-to-day.
“When I’m on horseback I can see over high fences and into back yards which I think is a bit of a deterrent for would-be criminals and makes the community feel safe.”
The pair’s time to shine is at the Fieldays where they patrol the tens of thousands who descend on Mystery Creek each year.
“Before we started at the Fieldays, they were getting around 25 to 30 thefts from cars each year. When we started patrolling in 2011, it decreased to one reported theft. Ali and I can easily weave in between cars and spot anyone suspicious.”
But the biggest buzz for Bill, is the “awesome” reaction the members of the public have to Ali. “Kids especially love meeting her. They climb all over her and babies love to stick their fingers up her nose but she loves it. She goes into Fieldays mode.”
“People have a connection with animals and I believe it bridges the gap between us and them.”
Photo Caption: Bill Eivers and Ali (photo courtesy of Stuff Limited).