Welcome address by Police Association President Chris Cahill
Ti hei mauri ora
E ngā mana
E ngā reo
E ngā mata waka
E aku rau rangatira ma
Tēnei te mihi
Kia koutou katoa
Nau mai, haere mai
E te Mana pirihimana
Ngā Kaitiaki or te mau ngā rongo
Ngā pirihimana o Aotearoa
Tēnā koutou katoa
E te Minita
E pa, Tēnā koe
The year 2019 will, for New Zealanders, be defined by the Christchurch attacks of March 15.
For the association, it will be defined by the exceptional response from our members across every aspect of policing – from the frontline, STG and AOS, the comms centres, forensics, CIB and everywhere in between.
It was also a time of outstanding leadership.
As our opening video graphically demonstrated, keeping Kiwis safe can be physically and mentally relentless.
In a single day, no other job goes from holding someone at gunpoint to comforting another in the depth of despair.
All in a day’s work for policing means anything is possible, and probable.
Never in this country’s modern history has any event come near to a representation of the extremes required of policing than March 15’s horrific attacks at two mosques, filled with people at prayer.
As a country we did not lose our innocence – our innocence was taken, and while we will never forget the act, our strength is in our unified determination to foil any repeat.
As a country, that is the very least we can do for the survivors of Christchurch.
As a country, we must follow through for our families, friends, fellow New Zealanders, and for ourselves.
For the association, Christchurch meant immediate action to safeguard our members so they were able to look after others.
I acknowledge the role of all police, from the young recruit on scene-guard duty three days into her job, all the way to the Commissioner whose leadership gave assurance to all New Zealanders and to his troops when they needed it most.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of our director Mike McRandle and field officer Catherine McEvedy who were there, day and night, knowing instinctively what was needed – whether that be personal support, ensuring the availability of psychologists to all, or reminding management when important little things were forgotten.
I was proud to hear directly from members of their admiration for Catherine and Mickey.
It was immediately clear to me that Christchurch was overlaid with another context.
Christchurch was the worst imaginable of the potential firearms catastrophes many of us in policing have dreaded for some time.
This is why the association is fully supportive of the Government’s crackdown on the types of firearms that so quickly killed 51 people.
These weapons have no place or purpose in our communities – urban or rural.
The association endorsed the buy-back and the legal moves to rid New Zealand of firearms that are designed to kill people, not pests.
We will champion the Arms Legislation Bill all the way to the Governor General’s royal assent.
We will do this because the changes will make New Zealand safer and that means our members will be safer.
The long overdue strengthening of arms legislation is a meaningful response to the tragedy of Christchurch.
It will ensure a future New Zealand will not be looking back over its shoulder knowing it has failed to act. In the aftermath of Christchurch we were forced to do just that in acknowledging we failed to heed the lessons of Aramoana.
We have witnessed the failure of countries to enact meaningful firearms reform while their citizens are killed in the thousands. As a nation our response to Christchurch set us apart and we must continue until the job is done.
In this year we settled a difficult payround and while it did not meet everyone’s expectations, I have no doubt it was the best achievable in the circumstances. Subsequent settlements and economic conditions, including very low inflation, have supported this settlement.
We also continue to hold Police to account for meeting its obligations under the collective and ensuring it is applied consistently across the country.
Police continues to recruit new staff in record numbers and compared with just two years ago, there are now more than 780 additional officers on the streets of New Zealand.
These officers are supported by an additional 750 Police employees, many of whom are deployed into the communications and the single non-emergency number centres.
My intel from the districts is the extra numbers are beginning to make a noticeable difference in frontline policing. That is where we must make sure the majority of new recruits go - into our communities. We all know communities will notice a drop in crime rates and benefit from the general wellbeing that comes with safer environments.
The difference will also be felt by our members.
Dissatisfaction with the numbers of frontline police staff in districts has dropped from 85 per cent to 66 per cent, and is also down for Police employees – from 50 per cent to 35 per cent since 2017.
However provincial areas are lagging behind this trend – especially Southern, Tasman and Eastern.
Resourcing woes continue to dog certain workgroups. Eighty-one per cent of members believe GDB frontline staff are not adequately resourced, followed by 60 per cent dissatisfied with resourcing levels in the fight against organised crime and drugs.
I believe we need to pay close attention to what is happening with road policing. Our road toll is already at 259 deaths for 2019 with two and a half months to go. The severity of the concern for our members is reflected in a jump from 37 per cent to 51 per cent of road police who do not believe they are receiving adequate resourcing.
Our 2019 biennial Member Survey was conducted after the Christchurch attacks so we were interested to see if there was a correlating surge, or drop, in police and public attitudes to general arming.
More than half of constabulary are now satisfied with the current access to firearms – up from 44 per cent in 2017 to 53 per cent this year. On the frontline that satisfaction level is 68 per cent.
Support for general arming has remained at 66 per cent, with the percentage higher amongst road policing.
What is worth noting is that public support for general arming has jumped from 55 per cent to 61 per cent – the highest level across the six surveys dating back to 2008.
The theme of this conference is the changing face of organised crime.
Tomorrow we will hear from speakers outlining what is going on in New Zealand’s organised crime environment, including the strategies and specialist approaches being taken by Police to combat these evolving trends. We will also have an international perspective which is particularly relevant given organised crime operates in a global sphere and New Zealand is not immune to that.
I will leave it to our guest speakers to explain the inner workings of the Police approach, and I will take a brief look at how the fight against organised crime looks from our members’ perspective.
We know for sure that the face of organised crime is evolving rapidly, borders are increasingly porous to its tentacles in this internet age, and the new face of organised crime is agile in its ability to move between licit and illicit markets, and wage war on already established markets.
In New Zealand we are seeing this with indigenous gangs which are increasing in size and sophistication, with the so-called 501 deportees from Australia – some of them gang members, and with the influence of Asian organised crime groups.
The United Nations World Drug Report this year revealed that Australian outlaw motorcycle gangs have expanded into South-East Asia to take advantage of a booming, multi-million-dollar meth export market. The UN estimates the illicit meth market in Australia and New Zealand is now worth $11.1 billion, partly because of the disproportionately high wholesale and retail prices in Australasia. High-level Mexican drug cartels are now targeting New Zealand because selling drugs here is so lucrative.
In the last year alone New Zealand police seized one and a half tonne of meth and an increased volume of cocaine. Daily reports of massive drug hauls populate our media.
I have spent much of my career involved in the investigation of gangs and other organised crime and have witnessed many changes. None more obvious than the huge increase in the level of drug seziures. In 10 years we have gone from single kilo drug imports justifying significant resources, to now, 100 kilo imports being almost commonplace.
However my biggest concern is the rapid growth in gang numbers and the effect this will have on the lives of New Zealanders.
What does it say when young people are increasingly considering gang membership as their future? Our members see disconnected, angry, confused and unloved young people turning to gangs as a “family”.
Now the Mongrel Mob wants to establish a female chapter. This is bordering on the absurd when we know the harm this gang has caused to so many women.
For a long time the public has remained somewhat immune from the overt activitites of gangs.
Most Kiwis are likely to suffer the downstream effects such as being burgled by an offender who needs to pay gang drug debts. However, as gang numbers increase, there is a corresponding increase in gang visibility, activities and inter-gang warfare which can be very ugly, very violent and increasingly involve firearms.
The latest figures show a 26 per cent increase in gang numbers in the last two years – that’s almost 1400 new gang members in that short time.
Bay of Plenty and Eastern districts have the largest concentration of gangs, with 1380 and 1041 gang members respectively, but by far the biggest growth has been in Tasman and Southern districts.
When we look at our 2019 survey the most identified threats to law and order in New Zealand are meth use and organised crime. The correlation between what our members are reporting and the official stats are unmistakeable. We know these two threats go hand in hand. In comments within our survey, members are calling for:
• Strategies to intervene in the generational links
to meth and gangs that fuel mental health and family
• Provision of resources needed to target and suppress serious organised crime and the access that gangs have to firearms
• Addressing a serious lack of resources for development of strategies to prevent the next generations ending up on meth and in gangs
• Introduce laws that hammer gangs that are destroying families through intimidation, dealing drugs and taxing.
Districts more likely to perceive meth use as an extremely significant threat are Tasman 80%, Eastern 79%, Southern 77% and Northland 75%.
CIB staff see organised crime as an extremely significant law and order threat especially in Eastern 64%, Bay of Plenty 62% and Southern, 60%.
These numbers demonstrate how gangs have driven the supply of meth into the regions and turned the supply and demand equation around, with supply driving the demand.
Provincial New Zealand is less equipped than our urban centres to cope with this and it is simply unacceptable for small town New Zealand to be carrying such a burden. There is some serious work required from all of us to turn this around.
Looking back over the past year, and looking forward to 2020, it is without doubt that our members – constabulary and Police employees – are key components in the fabric of New Zealand society. I acknowledge you all for the work you are doing – from the day-to-day essentials that keep the police machine running, all the way through to putting your lives on the line for the safety of your fellow Kiwis.