Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Labour questions police 'underspend'

Photo / David White
Photo / David White

Labour says $1.1 million cut from the police investigation budget and $5.9 million underspent in seven police districts could have gone towards cracking thousands of unsolved burglaries.

Labour's police spokesman, Stuart Nash, highlighted the spending patterns after a Herald investigation revealed more than 90 per cent of burglaries - an average of 164 per day - went unsolved last year. The week-long investigation showed the human cost of burglaries, and revealed Takanini South was the most burgled residential neighbourhood.

Documents showed that in the 2015-2016 budget, $1.1 million was cut from the area allocated to investigations.

It has also been revealed that seven of the country's 12 police districts underspent a total of $5.992 million in 2014-2015.

Police Minister Judith Collins and Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers have repeatedly said the department's resources were not a factor in the 9.3 per cent resolution rate.

However, Mr Nash said it was hard to understand why the budgets were underspent when crimes like burglary were being neglected.

"I'm concerned about the overall police budget. I think it needs to be bigger, but it's hard to make a case for more money when you've got seven districts under-spending."

Police Association President Greg O'Connor said the underspend in the districts arose from a "climate of fear" about spending.

"There will be a lot of very disappointed police staff, particularly middle managers who have been turned down for operations and equipment, who have been told they couldn't run those operations and now they are told there is money left over."

Money was only spent in policing when it started hurting politically, he said. "Now burglaries are going to start hurting the Government, there will be hopefully now some investment in that area."

A police spokeswoman said: "Police ... proactively manage their resources across all of New Zealand to maximise delivery of policing services to the New Zealand public. This frequently leads to minor variations in expenditure between appropriation classes, which are driven by operational demands."

Ms Collins said she had given police a "firm message" to focus on increasing resolution rates.

Morgan Tait

- NZ Herald

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