The number of Western Bay police has dropped to its lowest level since 2012 despite the area's population ballooning by more than 12,000 people during that time.
A five-month investigation revealed a total of 188 sworn police officers now protected the region's 176,000 residents - one officer for every 936 people.
This is less than half the ratio in Australia.
Figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act showed that the region's constabulary had slipped from a peak of 225 in June 2012 to 188 this year. Other police employees dropped from 28 to 14.
The numbers did not include casual staff or officers on leave without pay.
When asked about the drop of 32 officers in the Bay in 2013, the police said a restructuring meant some staff in the Bay reported to commanders outside the region. However, after a second Official Information Act request, police revealed the restructuring only impacted two staff that year.
A current police officer said burn-out had become a problem.
"The guys start work and do not stop," he said. "There's pressure on them to leave jobs and go to the next one, so we are putting Band-Aids on things and not doing a job properly.
The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, had no faith that extra staff promised by the Government would go to the front-line.
New Zealand Police Association's Scott Thompson said that it was not always fair to compare police numbers with population figures.
"There are some areas where there's very little crime and then others where police cars are the most common car driving down the street, but the population doesn't have anything to do with that."
When Mr Thompson was asked if he believed Tauranga was understaffed, he said "no".
"If I said 'yes', that's unfair to every other area in New Zealand. There is always going to be someone who thinks there are not enough cops.
"For what we've got, we do really, really well. The New Zealand public really does get bang for their buck with the current police numbers."
However, in a December newsletter, the Association mentioned that Australia had one officer for 432 people, with the Queensland jurisdiction having one to 413.
The newsletter said, "These ratios show that we are under-policed for the size of our population and geography, and failure to keep pace with that is starting to show in the rising rate of reported crime."
Earlier this year, the Government said it would boost police numbers around the country by 1125 during the next four years. Of that, 69 new staff were are expected for the wider Bay of Plenty.
New Zealand Police deputy chief executive of people Kaye Ryan said there was no set formula for officer numbers in any area, but factors such as population, crimes and crashes were considered when allocating resources.
Western Bay of Plenty area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said the drop was not significant.
His staff "cared deeply" about residents and were "committed to providing an excellent service".
Mr Paxton acknowledged that population growth created pressure.
"We have and will continue to look at new and different ways of meeting demand."
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said technology such as mobile devices meant officers had been working more effectively. The Government's 10 per cent increase in police staff would also help.
"This will certainly see more bobbies on the beat in Tauranga, and I believe it will mean crime rates will continue to come down."
New Zealand First Tauranga List MP Clayton Mitchell said he knew several police officers who were "stretched to the max".
He said police morale was "probably at an all-time low".
"This Government said they would get police numbers in line with Australia's one to 500. This is one to 900. The other officers they are talking about bringing in over the next four years is half of what we actually need."
In 2015, the World Economic Forum ranked New Zealand as the seventh safest country in the world.