The end is in sight for Tāneatua residents as police promise their burnt-out station will be rebuilt, with demolition work to begin in the next two weeks.
Acting area commander Stuart Nightingale said he couldn't say why the station hadn't been demolished before he came into the job in June, but since his appointment, he had been proactive in working towards a new station.
The Tāneatua police station was set alight by arsonists in December last year and has since remained a burnt-out shell on the town's main thoroughfare.
Community members said they felt unsafe without a police station and the burnt remains were unsightly and sent the wrong message.
Nightingale said police acknowledged the impact on the Tāneatua community with the time it had taken to replace the building, however, he had ensured that service delivery to Tāneatua had continued with extra mobile patrols. Nightingale also said Tāneatua could expect more permanent police staff in the station than previously.
Police expect the fencing of the site and deconstruction of the building will commence in the next two weeks. It is likely to take a further fortnight for the building to be completely removed.
"Since I came into the role it has been a top priority for me to re-establish a police presence in Tāneatua," said Nightingale.
"It is not lost on me the impact on the community to have a damaged and defunct police station; it sends all the wrong messages.
"Tāneatua is not overlooked, I have been proactive in other areas in respect to service delivery at Tāneatua. Service delivery has not stopped, we continue to have a presence there and we continue to respond. I have increased police patrols in Tāneatua as a preventive measure and to build trust and confidence within the community."
Nightingale said the town would also receive an additional permanent constable in the new station. The officer will be a rural community officer to serve Tāneatua, Waimana and the wider community.
The position has already been advertised and Nightingale said he would "make it widely known" when that person was operating, which he expects will be sometime soon.
"This is over and above the existing numbers for the Bay of Plenty. I have prioritised Tāneatua for extra policing support."
He said the new station would be a community hub unlike any other in New Zealand.
"There are a number of parties involved in the planning phase for the project and it has been my priority to ensure iwi engagement throughout this process," said Nightingale.
"There is a lot to sign off before you can build a building and a lot of co-ordination. I have committed myself to this project … and police have been consulting with iwi representatives within Tūhoe to ensure that we engage in a collaborative approach, not just in respect to the new build but also in respect to the deconstruction and removal of the present damaged building."
Tūhoe will be collaboratively involved with police to design and rebuild the new station to accurately reflect the Tāneatua community.
"It is not likely to look like a contemporary police building, it is likely to be quite different," said Nightingale.
"I would like the building to be a Tāneatua policing hub for the community which could be used for other purposes. That is a very exciting prospect for the community. People should feel safe, welcomed and included at the new station."
Nightingale said when demolition begins, police would like to make an event of it, with a barbecue and police making themselves available to members of the public.
"I know our people are very keen to see the replacement of the Tāneatua station," he said.
In the meantime, he said he was happy to speak to, and give updates to, anyone who would like to contact him about the progress of the station.