U-turn on plans for 24/7 police service

A plan to man Balclutha Police Station 24/7 appears to have been shelved.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said yesterday he had learnt the Government would not go ahead with National's plans to man Balclutha with an on-duty, 24/7 police officer.

Balclutha, which only provides 24/7 cover on-call at present, was one of 20 regional stations earmarked for an upgrade by former minister of police Paula Bennett in April last year.

The U-turn showed the Government's "lack of heart" for rural New Zealand, Mr Walker said.

"This Government promised 1800 new frontline cops, then admitted it's only going to be 1100, and now we find out the Balclutha Police Station isn't going to 24/7. I'm furious. People need to feel safe in their homes, and this should be a priority for this Government."

Minister of Police Stuart Nash rejected Mr Walker's claims of reduction of service, and abrogated responsibility for the Balclutha decision, describing it as "operational".

"The Minister of Police can't direct the Police Commissioner to make operational decisions.

"I don't pretend to know more about policing in Balclutha than the local police commander, and believe he or she is best placed to make decisions affecting service locally."

Acting Clutha-Taieri area response manager Senior Sergeant Stan Leishman said although the new decision was yet to be officially confirmed, it was expected soon.

But despite looking forward to enhanced service levels under the previously announced plans, he would not agree he was "disappointed" by the forthcoming decision.

He described present policing levels in the district as "adequate".

"I'd personally welcome any initiative where we could increase our service for the public. In the long run, I'd like to see two staff members on 24-hour duty. As it is, I'd like to reassure the public there will be no change to our current level of service."

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