Commissioner Andrew Coster has congratulated two Police recipients of awards in the 2024 New Year Honours.
Former Detective Inspector Craig Hamilton, now working on contract with the Financial Crime Group after retiring from Police in September, is made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).
Senior Sergeant Karl Wilson, of Tāmaki Makaurau Forensic Imaging, becomes a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM).
“I congratulate Craig and Karl on these thoroughly well-deserved honours,” says Commissioner Coster.
“They are both superb innovators who have transformed the way we do business in their respective areas of policing, without ever losing sight of the interests of victims and our communities.
“I’m delighted to see their immense contributions recognised at the highest level.”
Also honoured is Aaron Nicholson, who was officer in charge of Wanaka Police Station and Police Search and Rescue (SAR) coordinator in Wanaka from 2000 until his retirement from Police in 2018.
He has remained a leading light in LandSAR locally.
“It’s great to see Aaron recognised for his key leadership role in Southern District SAR, which led to many successful rescues and the development of a vital rescue capability for the Otago Lakes area,” says Commissioner Coster.
Former detective Inspector Craig Hamilton, honoured for services to New Zealand Police and the community, is recognised nationally and internationally as an authority in asset recovery, his specialisation for more than two decades.
He led asset recovery work in his home district Waikato, before managing asset recovery activities across New Zealand.
His national contributions included significant input to the development of the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (CPRA).
In 2014 he became one of the first recipients of the Police Meritorious Service Medal in recognition of his leadership and expertise in asset recovery.
He says the latest award was very much unexpected.
“This is a real honour for me and my family,” he says.
“I’ve had an amazing experience in my policing career – it’s been absolutely fantastic and very rewarding.”
He says much credit for his achievements goes to the people he has worked with.
“I feel really privileged to have worked with some wonderful people over the years and I’m grateful for the opportunities that Police has given me.
“It’s an amazing organisation full of amazing people.”
Senior Sergeant Karl Wilson, Tāmaki Makaurau Forensic Photography and Reprographics Manager, is recognised for services to New Zealand Police, disaster victim identification and Search and Rescue.
He joined the forensic photography team in 1998 and took his skills into the disaster victim identification (DVI) field in 2004.
It was when he was rotated to Thailand to join the DVI effort after the 2004 tsunami – with a film camera – that he recognised the value of digital photography and became a leader in its introduction to New Zealand Police.
He was a consultant to the Pike River re-entry and developed equipment and processes to enable high-resolution photography inside the sealed mine.
He says finding out about the honour was “pretty mind blowing”.
“It’s amazing,” he says.
“It’s hard to get your head around the fact that you’ve been recognised for your work at such a level.
“This is also recognition for some of the people I’ve worked with.
In both DVI and photography it’s not just me – I’m just one person in a team, which is the reason I’ve been able to do what I’ve done over such a long period.”
Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM)
Detective Inspector Craig Hamilton
For services to New Zealand Police and the community
Detective Inspector Craig Hamilton joined the New Zealand Police in 1988 and is recognised as a national subject matter expert in asset recovery work, where he has specialised for the past 22 years.
Detective Inspector Hamilton played a key role in Police’s input into the passing of The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (CPRA) and served on the Criminal Proceeds Working Party of Police and the Ministry of Justice to develop regulations to support the CPRA.
He took over leadership of the Waikato Proceeds of Crime Unit in 2002 and from 2009 headed the newly formed Waikato-based Asset Recovery Unit (ARU).
During his tenure, Police secured $140 million as part of an international money laundering investigation, the largest restraint of funds in New Zealand Police history.
He oversaw an operation leading to the forfeiture of $70 million, New Zealand’s largest forfeiture under the CPRA.
From 2020 to 2022 he was President of the Asset Recovery Interagency Network – Asia Pacific.
From 2023 he has contributed to an expert working group developing the INTERPOL Silver Notice to facilitate information exchange to support the tracing and recovery of criminal assets globally and in New Zealand’s interests.
Detective Inspector Hamilton has participated in five international Financial Action Task Force Mutual Evaluations as a law enforcement expert assessing country effectiveness with confiscation.
Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)
Senior Sergeant Karl Wilson
For services to New Zealand Police, disaster victim identification and Search and Rescue
Senior Sergeant Karl Wilson leads the Forensic Imaging unit for the New Zealand Police in Auckland, having joined the Photography section in 1998, and since specialising in the field.
Senior Sergeant Wilson has been a member of the National Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team.
He has responded to significant disaster sites including tsunamis in 2004 and 2009, Australian Bush Fires, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the Malaysian Airline MH17 plane crash, and the 2019 Christchurch terror attack.
He has developed national systems to record the last remains of the deceased and ensure the imagery is preserved and stored with integrity.
He has delivered DVI training for Police and the New Zealand Defence Force.
He was Forensic Imaging Consultant to the Pike River Re-entry.
He worked with mining engineers to train and equip them to take high quality photographs in potentially explosive atmospheres.
He developed new techniques to capture footage inside the mine workings where manned entry was impossible.
He provided leadership for the scene and search phase following the 2019 Whakaari/White Island eruption.
He has been a member of Police Search and Rescue for 20 years and as an incident controller he has coordinated hundreds of successful rescues.
Senior Sergeant Wilson developed Digital Search Management in Auckland and GPS track logging of teams in search areas.
Mr Aaron Nicholson
For services to New Zealand Police and Search and Rescue
Mr Aaron Nicholson joined New Zealand Police in 1987 and became Officer in Charge and Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordinator in Wanaka from 2000 to 2018, servicing Mt Aspiring National Park, one of the most visited areas for climbers, trampers and adventure tourists nationally.
During his tenure Mr Nicholson has managed more than 600 SAR operations.
Wanaka SAR went from operating out of the police station garage with volunteers called as needed with their own equipment, to now having 80 volunteers with a fully equipped incident management centre and specialist gear.
He has volunteered with Wanaka SAR since his retirement from Police in 2018 and was Chair from 2020 to 2023.
For the past seven years, he has been a New Zealand Land SAR Incident Management Tutor delivering training nationally.
Under his leadership, Wanaka SAR has raised around $4 million to build their headquarters, ensure availability of clothing, communications and technical equipment, and provide volunteers with up-to-date training.
He led Wanaka SAR to create specialist integrated teams for alpine/cliff rescue, swift/water canyon rescue, sub-alpine/bush and an incident management team.
Wanaka SAR is the only group to have received the LandSAR New Zealand Supreme Award three times.
Mr Nicholson helped found the Southern Alps Rescue Trust in 2020 and remains a Trustee.