Outspoken MP says thin blue line has been stretched too far

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NO HELP: Parliament has been told a “ funding freeze” is not helping to combat burglars.

SPEAKING OUT: Ron Mark is hot under the collar over funding for police. PHOTOS/FILE
SPEAKING OUT: Ron Mark is hot under the collar over funding for police. PHOTOS/FILE

Masterton has been tagged in Parliament as a classic example of the serious impact the Government's six-year police "funding freeze" is having on rural New Zealand.

Wairarapa List MP Ron Mark, who has police as one of his six New Zealand First portfolios, spoke out in Parliament this week, disappointed with the Government's "flat-line policy" for its police budget.

He said the Government needed to devote more funds to the police budget as opposed to "thinning out of the number of police in rural provincial New Zealand".

"Have a look at what is being said in Masterton," he said.

"In Masterton we have got reports of burglars now. Burglars have struck Masterton more than 11 times in the last week, - this is Monday, June 13 - in some cases stealing from the bedsides of sleeping homeowners.

"Warning: we know - and it was good to have the Minister of Police confirm that we were correct over here - that burglary is an entry-level crime.

"It starts at the burglary of an empty house or a house that is not occupied at the time. It progresses to burglary at night, when people are home.

"Then it progresses to voyeurism, and then it progresses to an assault when someone wakes up and confronts the burglar, or it progresses to a burglar stealing from the bedside of a sleeping homeowner, and then the next step that comes in is sexual assault and rape."

Mr Mark said if he were Prime Minister he would be explaining himself to the rest of Cabinet as to why the police budget has not been increased.

"Look, New Zealand First has a track record, and, in conjunction with our time in coalition with the National Government and in our time with the Labour Government, we did everything we could to increase police numbers, but it is not just about increasing police numbers. It is making sure that the police presence is out there and that it is being seen," he said.

"It is about feet on the beat, prevention, intervention, and enforcement. It is about the three Rs: random patrolling, rapid response, reactive and investigations, and to be out creating a presence in the street and the certainty that if you are going to commit crime, like bash a shopkeeper on the head and steal cigarettes, you will be caught and you will be arrested and you will be charged and you will be convicted."

Mr Mark's concerns were heightened by the recent news that Hastings District Council is looking to expand its assisted community patrol initiative at further cost to the Hastings ratepayers by about a million dollars.

"Now we have a group of 18 mayors, primarily in rural New Zealand, provincial New Zealand, saying that the big cities are getting the attention," Mr Mark said.

"So, however this Budget has shaped up and however we sell it, you have got to say that the Minister of Police must be grinding her teeth at the back, looking at the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister and saying, what the hell are you trying to do to me?

"Because these frozen Budgets are having a serious impact in rural, provincial New Zealand."

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