The Government is being accused of changing the rules for its major promise of adding 1800 police this parliamentary term.

But Police Minister Stuart Nash says the "1800 more police" and "1800 new police" are two independent goals.

Nash has repeatedly talked about the aspirational goal of 1800 more police as a net number, meaning that it accounted for officers who left the force.

But in Question Time today, Nash said that the Government commitment to "strive towards adding 1800 new police officers over three years" in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement did not account for attrition.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters asked Nash: "Can the Minister of Police confirm that what the Government, in this coalition agreement, promised was adding 1800 new police officers over three years—that means newly-trained, and that's the target we're going to meet very shortly?"

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Nash: "I can indeed confirm that, and I will also confirm that we've done it in under three years - in fact, just over two years."

This followed Peters' comments yesterday that the 1800 target was only about new recruits, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's unequivocal answer during Question Time yesterday that the 1800 target would be met this term.

Ardern's answer caused a stir because previous statements from Nash, police and the Police Association have all taken account of attrition in the 1800 target, which would mean the Government was less than halfway towards achieving the target with only one year to go.

As recently as yesterday, Nash told the Police Association annual conference about the promise of "1800 more police".

"So far we have graduated around 1685 since becoming Government, which equates to around 892 more staff over and above attrition," Nash said in his speech.

"We said we would strive for 1800 and it is aspirational ... My promise to you is that if we don't reach our numbers in three years, we will keep training new officers until we do reach this target."

When asked about the 1800 new recruits in a written parliamentary question last year, Nash said the target was about additional, not new, officers.

National Party police spokesman Brett Hudson says the Police Minister had no chance of meeting his 1800 more police target, so he changed the rules of the game. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National Party police spokesman Brett Hudson says the Police Minister had no chance of meeting his 1800 more police target, so he changed the rules of the game. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Similarly, a police article from June 2018 said: "Growth of 1800 constabulary staff requires 900 recruits a year."

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And the latest edition of the Police Association magazine included a graph to show 747 additional constabulary staff so far towards the 1800 target.

National's police spokesman Brett Hudson said there was "no way" the Government was going to make its target under its own rules, so it changed the rules.

"The Minister's moved the goalposts. He knows he can't deliver on his promise so he's changing the rules. Too many times he's said that the way to measure the 1800 target is to include attrition.

"It's another broken promise to New Zealanders."

But Nash said the goal of 1800 more police was "in addition" to the goal in the Labour-NZ First agreement, for which only Ardern and Peters were the designated spokespeople.

"Police are currently funded to address attrition. I expect them to achieve real growth of 1800 frontline officers.

"There are now almost 900 more frontline officers on the ground than there were at the start of the 2017/18 year. However the Government cannot control turnover, retirements, resignations or officers' decisions to move to part-time roles."