Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Labour MP Stuart Nash to stop criticism of top cop Sandra Venables after police complained to his leader Andrew Little

Labour police spokesman and Napier MP Stuart Nash has agreed to stop criticising Eastern District Commander Sandra Venables. Hawke's Bay Today Photograph by Warren Buckland.
Labour police spokesman and Napier MP Stuart Nash has agreed to stop criticising Eastern District Commander Sandra Venables. Hawke's Bay Today Photograph by Warren Buckland.

Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash will stop public criticism of a police district commander after his boss received a letter of complaint from police.

Police sent the letter to Labour leader Andrew Little after repeated criticism of Eastern District Commander Sandra Venables by Nash, who is MP for Napier.

Following a discussion with Little, Nash has now agreed to focus his fire on Police Minister Judith Collins.

"Andrew and I had a good talk about this, and I said I will now back away from the district commander. But he completely agreed with me that I have to hold police to account in the electorate that I represent," he said.

"I'm going to stop talking about [Venables] and I'm going to concentrate on the issues and hold the minister to account. That was my suggestion and Andrew backed me 100 per cent."

This afternoon Collins said Nash's attacks on Venables, who took on her role in early 2014 and supervises about 500 staff in a district which extends from near the tip of East Cape through to southern Hawkes Bay, clearly put him in the wrong.

Venables was unable to defend herself publicly, Collins said, and she knew a number of police officers who were unhappy with Nash's behaviour.

On the agreement between Little and Nash to direct criticism her way, Collins said, "I think they both probably have a bit of a problem with strong women".

Nash rejected that.

"What I do have a problem with is the Napier electorate not being serviced in a way that meets expectation. I don't care if it is a man or a woman or who it is. I'm going to stand up for the issues that the people of Napier tell me is important.

"I believe a number of decisions that have been made over the last two years are really suboptimal...there is only about 10 per cent of burglaries solved. It is a resourcing issue and it needs to be sorted out from the minister down."

Eastern District Police commander Superintendent Sandra Venables has been heavily criticised by Labour police spokesman and Napier MP Stuart Nash. Hawke's Bay Today photograph by Warren Buckland.
Eastern District Police commander Superintendent Sandra Venables has been heavily criticised by Labour police spokesman and Napier MP Stuart Nash. Hawke's Bay Today photograph by Warren Buckland.

In June, Nash said in an opinion piece for the Hawkes Bay Today that he had lost confidence in Napier's police district commander, claiming there has been a "hollowing out of policing" under her watch.

"I have to admit, this is a very big call, but I feel that the concerns of our diverse communities are not being taken seriously at all," he wrote.

Nash 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 the depletion of community policing capacity, was "not policing excellence at all".

The following month, he again criticised Venables, saying the region's top cop should live in the region and not Whakatane, where he understood she was still based.

Police responded by saying Nash's information was incorrect.

- NZ Herald

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