Concerns raised about the thinning blue line

By Victoria White victoria white@hbtoday co nz

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POLICING in Hawke's Bay has raised concerns with many, including Napier MP Stuart Nash, but the issues may stem from an unofficial policing model being imposed around the country.

Last week, Mr Nash voiced a lack of confidence in Eastern District Commander Sandra Venables, and raised concerns about the "hollowing out of policing in Napier".

Mr Nash said his piece had not been a personal attack on Ms Venables, or on the "good, hardworking men and women in blue".

Citing a meeting held at Napier City Council in April, at which mayor Bill Dalton and Hawke's Bay area commander Tania Kura were present, Mr Nash said the "full to overflowing" council chamber reflected how concerned people were with Napier policing.
The concerns he raised had come from both the community and high-ranking police personnel who were concerned about what was going on.

"I'm advocating on behalf of the Napier community and the concerns they have with policing," he said.

"A number of [police] have the same concerns I have. They are seeing changes in Hawke's Bay which they think are not in the best interest of Napier."

However Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the issues in Hawke's Bay were being felt by other provinces throughout the country due to a model of centralisation being imposed on police throughout the country.

"With the policing model, the country the provincial areas are really starting to feel the pinch," he said, "It's always the provinces that get it first."

"While no one will say its centralisation ... [New Zealand Police] are imposing a model on the district, which is outside the domain of the district commander's, they're [pandering] to a national body," he said.

The model seemed to work well in bigger populations. Mr O'Connor said centralisation did not lend itself to smaller communities - however New Zealand Police were rolling out the unofficial model throughout the country.

"That's why you have a lot of the tensions you do," he said, "you can't just police to what is required locally."

Mr Nash has said changes in Napier policing, including the transition from a station which could house 81 staff and had cells to a satellite station which could hold 41, and depletion of community policing capacity, was "not policing excellence at all".

When asked, Mr Nash said his concerns were first raised when the Napier police station was closed after hours. He said he became more worried after hearing about the demolition, and finding out the district headquarters would be moving from Napier.

The changes that had occurred since, Mr Nash compared to "the old cliché of death by 1000 cuts".

Ms Venables said community safety was the top priority and the 500 staff she supervises as Eastern District Commander.
"I understand there are some concerns over changes," she said. "But I want to reassure people that we have the safety of our communities at the forefront of everything we do.

"There's a commentary that we don't care, but everyone of my staff members care about the community they police. They come into work every day and do what they can with the resources they have."

As Eastern District Commander, she said the district's police were completely focused on preventing harm to the people in the communities under their jurisdiction, and on decreasing victimisation.

Police in Hawke's Bay were currently aligned to a number of key national strategies. These included an aim to reduce repeat offending, victimisation and fatal crashes among Maori through their Turning of the Tide initiative, and a Prevention First programme. Police were also part of the government-wide Safer Journeys strategy, launched to reduce and prevent road related trauma.

Police structures evolved to meet the needs of the community, and a greater emphasis had been placed on preventing and responding to serious and violent crime as well as child protection, young people and family violence, which remained the biggest risk areas for local communities.

Any claims of the police budget being frozen were wrong, she said. In the 2010/2011 financial year Ms Venables said she had received a total budget of $51.9m, and in the 2016/2017 year she had received a budget of $55.2m.

Police were also putting a great amount of investment in communities, she said, citing the $24 million combined investment into the revitalisation of Hastings and Napier police stations.
"The investment into the district has been phenomenal, because we do absolutely need it," she said. "Everything we do, we do for the people of Hawkes Bay."

When asked about a perceived lack of police presence, she said officers were deployed where there was need.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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