Anger over end of police station plan

The Wanaka Police Station. Photo: Central Otago News
The Wanaka Police Station. Photo: Central Otago News

Southern mayors and MPs say they are furious plans to upgrade four Southern police stations to a 24/7 service have been shelved and the decision is "another kick in the teeth for the South".

But senior police figures say resources will be put "where demand dictates" and the revised approach means police have more flexibility to deploy staff where needed most.

Bryan Cadogan
Bryan Cadogan

The Otago Daily Times learned yesterday that proposed upgrades to a 24/7 service for the Alexandra, Wanaka and Balclutha police stations and a new proposed rural Southland base had been halted.

It is understood the decision has been made by senior police commanders.

A statement from Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham said "with the extra investment of 1800 extra police in Budget 2018", the previous population-based target of 95% of New Zealanders living within 25km of a 24/7 police base was removed, "with police instead adopting a demand-based approach to regional deployment to best keep our provincial communities safe.

"This revised approach means police districts have more flexibility to deploy staff in a way that ensures officers are working when and where they are needed most, based on demand as determined by the local district commander".

He said the four southern stations would have an increase in police numbers, "but these will be at times and places determined by local police commanders".

A statement from Police Minister Stuart Nash said local commanders were "best placed to deploy their resources where demand dictates and where they believe staff will be best utilised".

Mr Nash said there was no advantage "to having a uniformed officer sitting at a desk at 3am on a Tuesday morning, I would rather they were out in the community".

It is not known what, if any, changes to hours or resources might be made in the four Southern stations that will no longer be upgraded to 24/7. But it is understood no decrease in police staff levels is proposed, rather it is additional resources promised that will no longer be provided.

Balclutha Police Station. Image: Google Maps
Balclutha Police Station. Image: Google Maps

Chairman of the southern mayoral zone, Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan, said that "still felt like something has been taken off us", and the Clutha district was "desperate" for more police.

He said it was "unbelievable" that senior police leaders had decided against the 24/7 upgrades to help "the officer on the street" and "our knights in blue".

Mr Cadogan said he had been "shouting from the rooftops for the past three months [about Southern policing levels] but it's hard to get heard ... it's falling on deaf ears. But the fight will go on".

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said the move was "another kick in the teeth" for the South, and he would be writing a "stern letter" to the Police Minister.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean said the decision was "unfair on our communities" and a backward step, "particularly at a time when population growth and increased visitor numbers means extra policing should be a priority".

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker criticised the Government's drop of the target to have 95% of New Zealanders living with 25km of a 24/7 police base.

"Our rural communities deserve the same level of protection as the rest of the country. The Government needs to explain why it's stripping away resources from Balclutha and rural Southland."

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