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Speech to Annual Police Association Conference

George Hawkins: Speech to 68th annual Police Association Conference

Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to address the 68th Annual Police Association Conference.

I'd like to acknowledge Police Association President Greg O'Connor and the Association's Vice-Presidents, Richard Middleton and Jeff Smith.

In fact, I recently saw Richard hard at work in the brand new Manurewa station - my electorate as it happens, and saw the positive effect he is having in that area.

I'd also like to acknowledge all Police staff, as well as overseas visitors and observers here today.

I'd like also to recall those members of the Association currently serving overseas and who can't be with us today. For those visitors among us, the Labour-led Government took office in late 1999, after nearly a decade of National-led Governments.

Like any change, since 1999, the Government and Police have had a settling-in period and we've enjoyed moments of robust discussion.

In that time however, a great deal has been achieved.

I would describe the last 12 months as a very positive period, as well as a time of consolidation.

I would like to go over a number of events from the last 12 months later in this speech.

I intend to touch on several areas of interest, including: · Police superannuation

· Capital expenditure for more police vehicles

· Legislative changes over the last 3 years and those proposed

· Major capital projects

· Road Policing

· and Wage Rounds

But before that, I'd like to take us back to December 1999 for a reminder of the situation the Labour-led Government inherited.

It was a time when things were difficult for Police. For a start, Police finances were in deep trouble.

The total Police budget for the 1999/2000 fiscal year was $861m compared with over $1billion now.

One of the first things this Government had to do in December 1999 was bail out Police to the tune of some $17million.

At that time, INCIS - remember INCIS? - was still stumbling on and subsequent stages had to be abandoned before it bled Police resources any further.

The Review of Police Administration - or Martin Review - was still alive and had to be stopped in its tracks.

The Martin Review of 1998 required that staff numbers be cut by 540. This meant any future Police costs would be met from the money saved by shrinking Police numbers for a mere $35m a year.

On New Year's Eve 1999 New Zealand had 7086 sworn and 1787 non-sworn staff.

There are now 7462 sworn and 2198 non-sworn staff, totalling 9660. That's an increase of over 10% in less than 4 years.

December 1999 marked an era when very little had been spent on Police capital works, vehicles or equipment.

The Labour-led Government had to move decisively. The Police had to react swiftly. They both did and I am very pleased about how things have been turned around. We've been through it together and it's time to refocus our energies and continue to work together on making our communities safer.

I'd like to turn now to some of the highlights and changes that have impacted on Police in the last 12 months

The GSF/PSS Changeover

Around 2200 sworn Police are currently in the Government Superannuation Fund.

They have had the opportunity since the closure of the GSF Scheme to new members in 1992, to freeze contributions and move to the Police Superannuation Scheme. The main impediment to transfer has been the different abilities of the two schemes to provide cash lump sum payouts on retirement from policing.

As most here will know, the GSF offers lower cash payouts compared with the PSS.

This has created a perverse incentive for some members of the Police sub-scheme to disengage prematurely under section 28D of the Police Act, rather than receive the payout and life annuity stream offered under the GSF.

I am pleased to tell the Conference that I intend taking a paper to Cabinet to try to remedy what Police see as an unfair situation. Capital Expenditure on Police Motor Vehicles

Between 1994/5 and 1999/2000, changes in capital expenditure priorities saw IT receive major amounts of funding at the expense of other areas.

One area that suffered was new vehicle purchases.

In the financial years 1996/97 and 1997/98, new vehicle purchases totalled 140 and 188 respectively.

I'm glad to say, things have picked up.

In 2000/01, 2001/02 and 2002/03, the figures are 502, 452 and 491, respectively. Police currently own 2,590 vehicles including special purpose vehicles like dog units, prison vans and so on.

In addition, 183 vehicles are leased for the Highway Patrol.

Police committed over $16 million for vehicle replacement in each of the past two years

I can say that another paper I will take to Cabinet for consideration, will, with Cabinet agreement see around $29m spent on a vehicle programme this financial year.

The programme would see a much greater percentage of the owned fleet replaced after around three years. This would mean:

· a modernised fleet,

· significantly lower average odometer readings,

· greater resale value of used vehicles,

· and overall better performance of the fleet.

The proposal has clear economic advantages.

Analysis shows that a three-year replacement policy provides the optimum balance between capital and running costs, sale proceeds and other benefits.

Relevant legislative changes over the last 3 years and proposed changes: Last year saw a number of legislative changes, many with direct impact on policing methods.

They ranged from the small but extremely useful changes to significant changes that combat very serious crime.

The Crimes Amendment Act 2003 expanded the scope of property crimes.

The 97 sections have been simplified into 55. And the range of individual offences have been extended.

New and expanded offences such as 'theft of trade secrets' and 'obtaining by deception' have created criminal law offences for what previously were civil law matters. In the growing area of computer related crimes, the Act recognises the need for specific investigative techniques for gathering and presenting evidence.

Expanded interception powers are also a feature of the Act.

The 2002 Victims Rights Act improved the treatment and rights of victims.

Changes here included:

- expansion of the categories of victims who could apply for the Victim Notification Register

- enhancement of the amount of information that must be given to victims - restrictions on lawyers and offenders retaining victim impact statements

The Land Transport (Unauthorised Street and Drag Racing) Amendment Act has been, I am advised, warmly welcomed by Police.

This Act has been successful in combating unauthorised street racing, drag racing, wheel spinning, and other stunts involving road vehicles.

I'm advised over 300 so-called boy racer cars have been removed from the streets.

The Local Government Act 2002 repealed provisions in the Local Government Act 1974 covering liquor bans and replaced them with a new bylaw regime. Currently, the Second Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Bill is before the Law and Order Committee.

This Act aims to:

- make it harder for criminals to dispose of stolen goods through second hand dealers and pawnbrokers;

- and make it easier for the Police to recover stolen goods and solve property crimes.

The Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Bill is back from the Select Committee and is expected to be enacted this year.

This Bill significantly extends the scope of current DNA laws to include: · mouth swabs.

· burglary as a relevant offence for suspect orders.

· foetal tissue sources of DNA.

· Replacement of databank compulsion orders with Police compulsion notices.

· and extensive 'administrative' changes.

The Counter Terrorism Bill has been reported back to the House and is also expected to be enacted this year.

This will benefit terrorist related investigations, but will also introduce general benefits to the Police, such as: · A comprehensive electronic tracking devices regime for indictable offences.

· Computer search powers via a statutory 'requirement to assist'.

· Significant enhancements to the use of intercepted communications as evidence.

Major capital projects

As I previously noted, capital works was an area that basically fell by the wayside during the 1990's

This Government embarked early on a $60m programme to upgrade and rebuild new police stations over a five year period. Compare that to the $725,000 National spent on capital works in their last three years in government.

Minor projects totalling around $1.68m will also be done over the next two years

This will include 5 new relocatable one-person stations to be completed in early 2004.

Road Policing

Road Policing has been one of the success stories of recent New Zealand Policing.

Introducing a distinctive Highway Patrol has greatly aided safety on our roads especially by reducing speeding.

Of course the Highway Patrol also helps detect other crime. They are quite simply the Police eyes and ears on the road.

It is therefore very disappointing that some politicians continue to claim that road policing is all about revenue earning.

It is not. It's about saving lives.

Road Policing represents a considerable investment in keeping our roads safe, to the tune of almost $200m spent in the area in each of the last two years.

Last year was a first in many ways.

· The three Auckland policing districts reached their target staff numbers

· We welcomed a number of experienced police from the United Kingdom into our Police ranks · At Manukau Institute of Technology, a number of young people underwent a pilot programme with the aim of assisting some of them into Police.

· This year's Budget allocated $6.6m over four years to fund two Police teams trained in the clean up of clandestine laboratories.

· The Government released a Methamphetamine Action Plan which included a 19-point strategy to counter the drug which included:

· Greater search and seizure powers for Police

· Increased powers for Customs to deal with unlicensed imports of precursors

· Improved community education · and more comprehensive drug monitoring surveillance data to support enforcement.

· Actions taken so far under the Plan include more money in this year's budget for Police and Customs initiatives,

· Reclassification of methamphetamine as a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act,

· And the development of community action plans.

The budget also allocated $7.26m in operating costs over the next four years and $138,000 capital costs during 2003/04 to set up a squad of three new specialist teams of mobile investigators to expand DNA in Auckland. I'd like to state that the Government continues to be determined to see a drop in the amount of crime being committed and a rise in the amount being resolved.

Police are to be congratulated for moving from the days when Police resolved less than 30 per cent of crime, to a situation over the past four years which has seen the resolution rate maintained at over 40 per cent, and the latest results, the best for 20 years with a resolution rate of 43.7%. You are to be congratulated.

I'd lke to express my thanks to your Association team, especially your President Greg O'Connor, for its excellent work.

In 2000 and again this year, the Associations professional attitude meant Police and the Association developed a sound approach to wage bargaining. They also developed a framework for negotiation that should serve as an example to other sectors.

The proof of the pudding was the success of the last two wage rounds.

Both settlements have been negotiated and achieved without intervention from third parties and that is to be commended.

Both settlements provided increases and changes to conditions acceptable to all parties.

I have to say I believe a three year term gives everyone certainty for the future.

It also enables people to get on with policing without the distraction of an annual wages debate. At the same time, real pay gains have been achieved.

Having said that, there have been some very difficult changes to work through.

One of the most significant is the end of performance pay for competency and service arrangements.

This is a landmark development that has the Government's support as well as being more consistent with the culture and work environment of the modern Police.

Rather than being daunted by these issues, I see this and other changes included as a reflection of the confidence of the Police and the Association in managing employment relations. Both, in other words are in good heart.

I'd like to finish by acknowledging the work of your Commissioner Rob Robinson.

Rob is unfailingly a great advocate for his troops.

On that note, I'd like to again thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you today.

Thank you.

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