A Rotorua Lakes councillor says New Zealand Police are "missing in action" and need to "step up" to enforce safety in the city's CBD.

However, police say officers are not "sitting around at the station doing nothing" and while they try to do proactive patrols, they need to prioritise limited resources.

The comments came from long-serving councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait in a council meeting on Thursday.

"I don't care what we say in this chamber, I don't believe enough is being done.


"The police need to step up. We will have something occur in our city, and it really is a safety issue. "We've got to do something. We've got to be prepared to demand accountability from our police officers. They are the ones who are missing in action."

Rotorua Lakes councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait. Photo / File
Rotorua Lakes councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait. Photo / File

Earlier in the meeting, councillor Peter Bentley had raised the issue of inner-city safety. He said the situation of safety in the CBD was not improving.

"I feel this council as a group must address [it] with absolute urgency." Chairing the meeting, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the previous evening's government announcement of a place-based assessment to develop a plan to combat the housing crisis in Rotorua was "well-received".

Raukawa-Tait said she was pleased about the place-based assessment, but it wasn't going to have an impact overnight. "I think it will get worse before it gets better."

Speaking with the Rotorua Daily Post outside the meeting, Raukawa-Tait said the place-based approach was a "medium to long-term solution" but Rotorua needed an immediate solution.

"The police cannot keep their head in the sand any longer and just say 'well, we're working on it', or 'we're doing the best that we can', because the best that they can is not good enough.

"We've got people who are reluctant to come into the CBD on business, we've got people who park up and get in and out as soon as they can … because they're concerned for their safety." She said the police needed to be "made aware" that there was dissatisfaction from retailers and the general public about the lack of city safety.

"No way are we on top of it, and certainly the police are not. So I'd say get out and about."


She had attended a meeting on Monday last week with CBD retailers to discuss the issue.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / File
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / File

That meeting was particularly around the presence of people "making a nuisance of themselves" in the CBD, some of whom were homeless, she said. There was a concern some people were showing "disregard" for retailers. "People are actually brassed off.

There were some retailers who feel really quite threatened by the behaviour and that's not good."

In the meeting, Chadwick said all councillors shared the concerns about safety in the CBD and she had called for more community policing in her speech at the government announcement the night before.

"Nobody in our town should feel unsafe in our district when they come into the centre of town, we shouldn't tolerate that."

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said Raukawa-Tait's comments the police were "missing in action" were "far too vague" and likely a matter of perception.


"I can get the evidence to prove quite the opposite. It's an unfair and unjustified comment towards the hardworking Rotorua police staff.

"We attend every matter of urgency as they come through … with the resources that are available.

"No one is sitting around at the station doing nothing. We do proactive patrols when we're able to do that, but most of the time we're running from job to job."

He said family violence was a particular issue in Rotorua and the police needed to be "giving that priority."

Taikato had spoken with the mayor since she made comments on Wednesday calling for more community policing in the city. He agreed it would be good to have more resources, but it was the same challenge across the country.

"To me it's a matter of perception to see more blue uniforms around. The reality is, they are there."


On Thursday, 59 new police officers graduated from the Royal NZ Police College. Of those, six have been assigned to the Bay of Plenty district.