More police jobs from Budget an illusion: union

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ

By Bill Hickman

The government's Budget funding for 500 new front-line police will actually result in only 300 extra officers on the beat, the Police Association says.

More than $220 million will go to funding an additional 500 constabulary officers - but that boost would come at the cost of 175 'corporate support' staff, the Budget, delivered last Thursday, outlined.

Commissioner Andrew Coster emailed staff on Budget Day expressing his delight at the government's commitment to the growth in front-line roles.

"We will be funded for 10,711 full-time constables, replacing any officers who leave during this time and growing by 500 more constables than were in place on 27 November 2023, when the government was formed," Coster wrote.

But Police Association president Chris Cahill told members after the announcement that the boost in police numbers was an illusion.

"Whilst extra staff are welcome, the net gain is not 500. The Commissioner's announcement was 500 more than the pure constabulary full-time equivalent they had on 27 November 2023.

"In November 2023 NZ Police were about 200 down on their funded constabulary Resource Allocation Target,  so the 500 extra should more accurately be viewed as 300 extra."

The 175 positions sacrificed to meet the government's directive for $55 million in savings would come on top a previously enacted hiring freeze that had left nearly 200 positions left vacant, he said. 

"The association understands this is in addition to over 200 vacant police employee positions arising from the recruitment freeze, many of which police may permanently dis-establish."

Cahill told his members the association had requested information to help support staff during the process including seeking clarification of the definition 'corporate support', specifics as to what vacant positions were likely to be disestablished and what programmes or projects would be halted or cancelled in the drive to achieve the savings.

Cahill acknowledged how difficult the current uncertainty would be for members and said police had advised consultation documents on the changes would become available in August.

The union's goal was to stand in support of it's members and to ensure the process was followed fairly, he said. 

NZ Police have been approached for comment.

A front-line officer - who did not want to be named - said there was uncertainty about how the cuts to 'corporate support' staff would impact their work.

"There's been no clarification from police as to what the definition of 'corporate support' is and what roles will fall out of scope of that term," he said.

There were concerns that staff who directly supported front-line police by helping with tasks such as processing court files, attending to the counters in the country's police stations or helping with investigations could be among the roles to go, he said.

"Everyone's really busy and there's people who do outstanding jobs in supporting us and taking that workload off us.

"If those roles go away, then that work will still have to be done and most likely by front-line staff."