Community safety is the top priority for Superintendent Sandra Venables, 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."

Ms Venables supervises about 500 staff in a district which extends from near the tip of East Cape through to southern Hawkes Bay, with support from two area commanders, Inspector Tania Kura for Hawkes Bay, and Inspector Sam Aberahama for the Tairawhiti Area.


Before being taking on the role in early 2014, Ms Venables had spent 20 years with New Zealand police in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland Districts.

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 Mori 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.

As well as 417 sworn staff, over the past year the district had budgeted for an extra 15 staff working in child protection and violence prevention areas. This was higher than the district's previous staffing allocation, and the funding was above what Ms Venables said she was supposed to have.

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, Ms Venables said officers were deployed where there was need.

"The community need to realise that every day, every police officer is coming into work to do a great job in their communities to keep them safe, and make the criminal fraternity accountable," she said.

However, Ms Venables said ensuring the safety of communities in Hawke's Bay was a combined effort, which involved other agencies, and organisations.

"We can't do it alone," she said. "If people want to be involved we'd be very grateful."