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We’ve Got More Policing Problems That Just Gangs – Mayor

Ōpōtiki Police Station is supposed to be manned 24 hours a day but Mayor David Moore says it is not always easy to get hold of police when they are needed.

Ōpōtiki Mayor David Moore wants to know why police are saying they are adequately staffed when they are telling the whanau of Jason Butler that they do not have enough resources to investigate the missing Omaio man.

In March, area commander Nicola Cooney told Local Democracy Reporting the town was not short of police, with 12 frontline staff plus a sergeant and a senior sergeant allocated to it. She said staff were being deployed from Whakatāne, with two staff members for every shift.

Also in March, Mr Butler’s sister, Huia Mackley, was told by police that "significant staffing issues" meant there had been no further progress in the case. "We have lost a number of staff for various reasons. Sadly, there is no other available resource in the Eastern Bay of Plenty,” Ms Mackley was told.

Mr Butler, 50, went missing in the Raukumara Ranges in October 2021.

“They haven’t really looked into it,” Mr Moore said.

Mr Moore said although he welcomed news of a new National Gang Unit it was time for the coalition government to announce more money for rural police.

“I certainly look forward to when there’s an announcement about giving the support and paying the police with decent incomes. Perhaps it would stop the exodus of experienced staff to Australia,” he said.

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Mr Moore feels relying on police deployed from out of town is not good for policing in Ōpōtiki.

“They need to build that rapport with the community. For those who live here, it’s not so easy to get hold of a policeman when you need one."

He said the last time Ōpōtiki Police Station had a full complement was in 2013 after a central Government budget freeze on policing saw services reduced.

“In 2012, this police station would have had an iwi and community liaison officers ... a dedicated youth aid officer and a CIB member.”

A former police officer himself, Mr Moore said he didn’t have “a beef with the police”.
“They can only work with what they’re given. We have an issue with a shortage of police here. Unfortunately, it seems to be the norm in our rural towns, not just Ōpōtiki.”

He is critical of cuts to incentives for police officers to work in small communities such as the “hard-to-fill” allowance.

“I don’t think that has been adjusted in the past 20 years. I can’t remember what we used to get paid 20 years ago, but if you aren’t adjusting something like that to keep up with the times, no wonder you have trouble filling vacancies.

“You get it for a reason, because sometimes, even if you’re off duty, you get called back. It’s just the nature of small stations. If your colleagues are on their own, you’re going to want to go and help them.”

“It’s actually about an investment into the community. Rural communities make up the bulk of our exports. We pay our taxes to have these police stations but they go to the bigger centres.”

He has also had enough of Ōpōtiki being held up as a poster child for gang crime every time the Government announces a new crackdown on gangs.

The funeral procession of Mongrel Mob Barbarians leader Steven Taiatini in June last year saw schools closed and motorists warned to plan for traffic disruptions.

Just months before an election, the incident became a political football with the National party describing it as “a town under siege” and saying the people were “living in fear”.

“I’m absolutely tired, just like everyone else in the community, of hearing on the news all the time about how our town was shut down,” Mr Moore said.

I’m not just saying that as the mayor. Ask anyone on the street and they’ll tell you the same thing,” he said.

“It wasn’t shut down. [The funeral procession] went down the street and everyone just carried on,”

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