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What's Going W - May 13 2005

Police leadership ringing hollow

The news for our Police isn't getting any better. The independent review into the state of our 111 call centres was released on May 11 with damning results for Police Minister George Hawkins and Police Commissioner Rob Robinson.

The report confirmed everything that the public has known for more than a year - that the Police are unable to respond to calls, that there is no leadership or confidence in the system, and that the public and frontline police are at risk.

The tragedy is that the report states that the problems are readily fixed. The Police Minister turned a blind eye to the situation, and the system has come crashing down. There are 61 recommendations to fix the system's issues - problems that existed at the time of the tragic disappearance of Iraena Asher, and the brutal bashing of Peter Bentley.

One of the key findings of the report is that the call centres aren't providing an adequate level of service - in other words, they're failing to even meet minimum standards.

The Police Commissioner is now under intense pressure to demonstrate support for his staff. At this stage, Mr Robinson says he has no intention of resigning over the report, despite its scathing comments. It is clear that when the problems at the 111 centres first arose, he should have insisted on more resources.

Labour's reaction to the report's release was for the Prime Minister and her Deputy to make a quick exit from the House just as Minister Hawkins began a very mediocre speech defending his own performance, and proclaiming once again that reported crime has dropped.

Subsequently, Labour has announced it will spend $45 million over the next four years to improve the call centres and public confidence.

But it will take more than money to restore the public's confidence in the system, and it will take more than money to restore staff morale. Key findings in the report show that there's a lack of governance and leadership in the centres, a lack of understanding throughout the Police and within the call centres of their purpose, and that the behaviour by call-takers needs to be improved.

Both the Police and staff in the call centres need strong leadership - something they aren't getting. A decent Police Minister would have dealt with this matter, and the other resourcing problems, months ago.

The lack of responsiveness from Labour has led to many problems within the Police, and in turn a drop in public confidence. It will take a long time for our 111 call centres to regain that trust. I only hope that in the coming months as the panel's recommendations are put in place that no more lives are risked because of a simple lack of resources and lack of leadership.

Lack of accountability

The lack of accountability shown by Hawkins now appears to be a widespread problem in the Labour Government.

Trevor Mallard failed to take responsibility for the Scholarship and NCEA debacle, with NZQA's chairman being the fall guy and resigning. Steve Maharey presided over the waste of millions and millions of dollars of public money for low-cost community education courses such as twilight golf and sing-along courses but he refuses to take responsibility for this.

Perhaps the lack of ownership of these problems is a reflection on the leadership of the Prime Minister, who has recently set an example in the Doone saga. She has given the impression that because she is the Prime Minister she can exercise her judgment without being bound by Cabinet rules.

Clark also showed a glaring lack of accountability when her motorcade allegedly sped through Canterbury last year so she could catch a flight to get a rugby game. She conveniently said she didn't know what speed the car was going because she was working in the back seat, and she has since allowed her Police minders to be charged.

The public can't trust this Labour Government - it's time for them to go!


Victory for Ponsonby homeowners in leaky home saga

The leaky home problem hit Auckland hard, so I was very pleased to find that a group of Ponsonby homeowners has been awarded $700,000 by the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service.

Good on John Gray, who voluntarily spent 800 hours pursuing the claim for him and six others. Their success is all the more exceptional because it is only one of a few in Auckland. As at February this year, only 5% of cases from the region had been solved, with an astounding 75% waiting to be finished.

The Ponsonby homeowners are now waiting for payment because some of the people and companies involved are appealing the decision. Also surprisingly, the group of homeowners are yet to see payment from Auckland City Council, which was part of the award.

After months of inaction, Labour announced this week that they are looking at additional ways to help owners of leaky homes, but all they've said so far is that it's too early to go into details.

This move is clearly an election-year ploy - Labour has been well aware that some homeowners have been unable to get help, and it's disrespectful that they are not giving them any more information.

I hope Labour takes a closer look at the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service while they're digging around. Its 33 staff and 18 mediators need to speed up the resolution process, and the $16.018 million it receives in funding needs to be better spent.

Some victims can't wait any longer and have formed a Leaky Home Action Group. The chairman, Bernie Fuller, has echoed my previous public statements that the Resolution Service is slow, inflexible and expensive.

The action group is holding a rally tomorrow (14th of May) at 4pm at Mt Eden Normal Primary. Speakers include National's feisty Building spokesman, Nick Smith, and National's Epsom MP, Richard Worth. With this strong support, I believe the group will be able to forge ahead and demand action.

ENDS

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