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National not putting NZ police first – you are low priority

Rt Hon Winston Peters

New Zealand First Leader

Member of Parliament for Northland
14 OCTOBER 2016

Police Association Conference

James Cook Grand Chancellor Hotel, The Terrace, Wellington

9am, Friday, 14th October, 2016

National not putting NZ police first – you are low priority

Thank you for the invitation to speak today.

New Zealand First respects the contribution the police make to our society, throughout New Zealand.

You have a difficult job and are very much at the coalface of our society.

You encounter the good, the bad and the ugly of New Zealand.

New Zealand First acknowledges the work of your outgoing association president Greg O’Connor who has been a strong advocate for police for 21 years after earlier being on the frontline.

We welcome your new president Chris Cahill who has also been a frontline officer serving throughout New Zealand.

When you leave an organisation you are prepared to open up and speak about things you might not otherwise do.

So it was interesting to read Mr O’Connor’s latest column as president in the Police News.

Mr O’Connor said New Zealand police are among the least corrupt, the most efficient, and the most professional police forces in the world.

That is something we can be proud of.

He said New Zealand has traditionally been a very egalitarian and fair society, although the gaps are widening.

But since neo-liberalism took hold through the flawed winner-take-all policies of Roger Douglas, our society has become a harder, often unkind place.

Police and emergency services are the people who see this every day. They pick up the pieces.

It is imperative, therefore, that you have confidence in the leaders of this country to provide you with the resources you need.

It was disturbing to read last week a headline in the Nelson daily newspaper.

“Nelson police morale continues to fall.”

That concern came out of the latest Police Workplace Survey.

It spokes volumes about what’s going wrong.

These issues must be addressed.

The government must play its part.

The theme of this conference is People First.

This must be the emphasis always.

But, this National government has not been putting you first.

You have been seriously under-resourced.

There are too few police for a population that is rising considerably.

Booming migration has pushed the population to its biggest increase of all time.

New Zealand’s population grew by 97,300 in the year to June 30, to 4.69 million.

Sadly, more people means more crime, and often more sophisticated organised crime from overseas.

But there have been no extra police.

Crime is going up.

In the year to June 2016 dwelling assaults, as you call them, rose nearly 20 per cent.

Public place assaults went up 13.1 per cent.

Serious assaults resulting in injury went up 7.3 percent.

As all this was happening a giant con was being presented to the New Zealand people by the National government.

That con was to say crime is falling.

Then Police Minister Judith Collins announced two months ago, because the rate of burglaries had shot up, that police would attend every house burglary.

Nationwide the clearance rate was 10 per cent. In Northland it was 3 percent.

That statement from the minister would have been comical had it not been so serious.

It meant, hitherto, burglaries were not being investigated.

Burglaries have always been serious. As you know, burglary is an entry crime that can go on to murder, assault and rape.

Police know this; the minister doesn’t.

This week there have been dog whistles from the minister about increasing police numbers.

She told you she has talked to the prime minister about it. But, on 27th of May this year she signed off the four-year plan for police. It states there will be no increase in police numbers.

Under the Official Information Act we have requested details and the times she spoke to the prime minister.

She won’t answer.

We asked on the 11th of August.

Our inquiry was extended to the 29th of September. Now it’s the 14th of October. She still won’t answer.

Meanwhile, you have more work, more stress, - no staff.

No wonder you now have a frontline staffing crisis.

I shall return to this later.

COURTS

It is important that the police have confidence in our judicial system.

To bring a case to court can require enormous work and effort, sometimes over many months.

New Zealand First has said – and continues to say - that the New Zealand public will lose confidence in the judiciary if serious offending is not backed up by appropriate sentencing.

We saw it earlier this year with the downgraded conviction for the death of Moko Rangitoheriri.

This case was a failing of our whole system under National.

We saw it again when a rich-lister’s son was found guilty of attacking and knocking unconscious Constable Alana Kane.

The offender apologised for his "bad decision in the heat of the moment".

It wasn’t a “bad decision.”

It was straight out thuggery.

Was community work a strong enough sentence to match the severity of this assault?

A report said Constable Kane was still being helped by colleagues on her road back to work, 18 months after the attack.

Ladies and gentlemen, our judiciary must be cognisant of the fact the public have to see appropriate justice is being done.

They do not see this when murder charges are downgraded and we have cases of what appear to be privileged treatment.

KING HITS

There have been too many cases of innocent people dying from a “King hit”.

We must stop this street violence before it becomes cool to land such punches.

What has happened to this country when a man walks into a dairy and is killed by a punch.

That’s what happened to Matthew Coley in Invercargill.

His 16 year old killer got 22 months jail, but only served 11 months on remand.

Why can’t a man wait for a burger, without fear of attack.

That’s what Steve Radnoty was doing when he was killed in Dunedin.

His partner said afterwards life was now a “nightmare”.

The killer got three years, but was eligible for parole after only 12 months.

That’s too soft.

We want to send a message. Land one of these cowardly punches, take a life, and you’re behind bars a long time.

Bay of Plenty school principal Hawea Vercoe was killed by a 21 year old in Whakatane.

His sentence was four and a half years - parole after only 18 months.

We must act. Good people have been killed. Families and friends are suffering. That’s not a fair and just society.

There is something very wrong and out of balance if, in a small country like this, we can’t walk safely on our streets, no matter the time of day or night.

The “King hit” punch will be defined in law as “an event that is unexpected and unprovoked but of such force to the head that it is likely to cause incapacitation, injury or death”.

New Zealand First will ensure the length of the sentence will send a message that society will not accept this level of violence.

POLICE RESOURCING

New Zealand First accepts police concerns that your thin blue line is too thin.

The fact is the police budget has been frozen since 2010

New Zealand has at least 208 “ghost” police stations where not even one officer could be maintained over four consecutive Fridays and Saturdays.

In the first half of 2016, 73 police stations didn’t even have one officer rostered to work in them and these include towns like Kawakawa.

Morale in many rural police stations – the ones that are left – is lower than in the cities.

In 2009 there were 3161 general duty constables.

This year there are 2593.

Instead of getting extra police the minister gave you iPhones and iPads. So now we have fly-by patrol policing.

We haven’t seen an iPhone make an arrest yet!

We are lagging behind Australia in the numbers of police relative to the population.

Australia has one police officer for every 432 people.

In New Zealand we have one to 526. Take out those dedicated to traffic duties and we only have one police officer to 600 people.

That is unacceptable.

It falls short of the government’s election promise in 2008 to maintain the modest goal of one police officer to every 500 people.

Months ago New Zealand First pledged we will make sure 1800 extra police are trained as soon as possible. The cost is slightly more than $300 million.

We have made this a bottom line policy.

On the basis of our past record this is not going to be a complex exercise.

In 2005-2008 we got an extra 1000 more frontline police and 235 back-up staff.

Minister of Police Judith Collins has boasted about increasing police numbers by 600 in 2009.

She did not say, however, that the funding had already been allocated through New Zealand First’s confidence and supply agreement for those 1000 extra police.

We would also ensure other aspects of policing that are being overlooked are adequately resourced.

We would boost our Police Maritime Units.

We are a nation locked by sea yet we have only two maritime units based in Auckland and Wellington.

There are none in the South Island.

New Zealand First thinks it is long since time this serious deficiency was addressed.

We would ensure Neighbourhood Support and Community Patrols of NZ, Māori Wardens and Pasifika wardens receive the support they need - they act as second eyes for police.

The signing of an agreement between Community Patrols and the NZ Police, this year is a positive sign of teamwork.

The newly formed Auckland Safety Community Patrol is made up of people applying to join the NZ Police.

Community patrols do a wonderful job all over New Zealand.

New Zealand First would support greater central government resources for them to ensure local ratepayers and businesses do not have to fund them alone.

We would make it a priority as part of these extra resources that they target and patrol garages, dairies and bottle stores to combat the epidemic of robberies occurring around New Zealand.

RURAL POLICE SUPPORT (RPs)

Also in a new policy we will roll out support for police in regional NZ.

Rural areas of New Zealand do not have enough police.

1800 extra police will have an impact but it will not solve the issue in our provinces.

The Police Workplace Survey showed that police morale is lower in country areas than in the cities.

In many cases police stationed there work alone.

New Zealand First would create and trial Rural Police Support.

The RPs would come from all walks of like, similar to the rural volunteer fire service.

They would have to meet the recruitment requirements as set by the NZ Police.

They would undergo training and receive an allowance.

They would volunteer for a minimum of 16 hours a month.

They would man police stations in the absence of fulltime officers.

They would go on patrols, take part in crime prevention initiatives and may also be involved in policing major incidents, providing operational support to regular officers.

At no time will they replace fulltime police – but they will act in a supportive “buddy” capacity.

END THE COP BLAMING CULTURE

NZ First intends to end the cop blaming culture which consistently arises whenever a high speed pursuit takes place.

In blaming the police, exactly what incentives are being sent to the crims?

Offend, then speed away from the event, endanger the public and the police will terminate the chase.

And if there is any accident, the Independent Police Complaints Authority will begin an investigation.

Why?

The real issue here should be properly charging offenders, not with manslaughter, but with murder when deaths result from their high speed criminality?

USING REAL RESOURCES TO FIGHT REAL CRIME

We want the police to be fighting real criminals.

So we will only allow the installation of speed cameras when they are used as a deterrent at accident black-spots and in residential areas or near schools where there are specific potential dangers.

What we will stop is allowing speed cameras to be used as revenue-raisers by local authorities.

It will seem to you that the political parties are in a bidding war.

Police Numbers

• I think I should remind you of the following.

o In 1996 New Zealand First campaigned on increasing Police front line numbers by 500 extra officer.

o When we negotiated the Coalition Agreement with Nation and went into government we got you 500 extra front line staff in the first two years.

o We negotiated in that same deal another extra 380 (exact number to be confirmed) to happen in the THIRD year.

o When National and Jenny Shipley broke the Coalition in 1998 National reneged on that second tranche of 380.

o In 2005 when we campaigned, we campaigned on a policy of “doubling the size of the Police in numbers over the next five years”. This out of our recognition of the increase in the population, the increased workload on Police and the increase in crime. Ambitious we know.

o Sadly we lost MPs because not enough people voted for us. But.

o In 2005 when we signed the Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour there was an extra 1000 frontline Police in there for you.

o When Labour later tried to adjust that to include back office support staff we stood our ground and said NO, that is extra because our deal is for 1000 “Frontline” GD Police officers. We forced Labour to agree and they increased the total number from 1000 to add 235 back office staff.

o In 2008 National entered and the record shows that it was the funding that we put in place in 2006/7 and 2008 that gave you the extra police for 2009 and 2010. NOT National.

o The message is clear. There is only one party that history shows has consistently campaigned on increasing your numbers and your Police Assn membership I might add… NZ First.

o There is only one party who when it has held the balance of responsibility has consistently negotiated extra Police numbers into its agreements with both National and Labour. New Zealand First.

o And there is only one party who has stuck to its guns on those deals when the others National and Labour have attempted to renege, and who has NEVER reneged. New Zealand First.

Rural Policing

o New Zealand First is concerned at the increasing incidences of crime out in rural New Zealand and the views of rural Mayors that their citizens are taking a back seat when it comes to Policing because of National’s focus on Metropolitan New Zealand.

o This is not a case of either or. We recognise that there are massive issues in the cities and that you need extra numbers to keep up and to safely do your job.

o But so too does Rural New Zealand.

o Rural New Zealand has unique problems. Time distance and connectivity are real issues. Cell phones don’t work at Flat Point in the Wairarapa. When a police officer deploys from Pahiatua to Pongaroa it’s a 40-minute drive and they cannot rely on there being connectivity all the way or even at the scene of the investigation. Cities are quite a different matter.

Communications

o New Zealand First thinks it is unacceptable that your security of operations continues to be undermined and interdicted in provincial New Zealand through the lack of secure communications. This government has failed you thus far by not funding the digital roll our throughout the whole of New Zealand.

o New Zealand First will do that.

Youth Offending

o New Zealand First stands alone and against the proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility. National, Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party are supporting that decision.

o But let’s be clear. This has always been part of Labour’s agenda.

o National said they opposed it when they were in opposition.

o Now they are in government they support it.

o These two recidivist offenders are just like Pepsi and Coke. Take away the red or blue packaging and you can’t tell the difference can you? No because they are the same.

o Only one party has stood firm on this issue.

o It was NZ First and Ron Mark who sought to lower the age of criminal responsibility with its private member’s bill in May 2008. Which those two old hacks voted against.

o So when the Police Association says “you don’t want the age of criminal responsibility lowered, actually we don’t say we hear you. We say “we know that, we tried to raise it in 2008” and we are totally opposed to it being raised.

o It is National and Labour who disagree with you on that matter and the nonsense is that we know that in 2008 over a quarter of all police time is spent just on youth offending. The figure we believe has only gotten worse.

On the Matter of Historical Support on Controversial Matters

o The Urewera Raids. Who supported you when others criticised you? We did.

o On the Introduction of Taser. Who supported you when others dithered. We did.

o On Body Armour and Stab Resistant Vests. Who stuffed around and stuffed around and botched the whole project? They did.

o Who put the rocket under their backsides and pressured the rollout? NZ First did.

o The Bushmaster Rifle. Who supported you having that military style semi-automatic rifle issued to front line staff when others were gasping in horror and opposing you having such a firearm? NZ First did.

Secure Communications? Who argued the need for this over a decade ago? NZ First did. The question is having had a National government for eight years now, why has it still not been sorted.

CONCLUSION

The immediate issue, however, is just getting more police on the frontline.

Only then will you be able to concentrate more fully on big crime issues:

Drugs.

The resurgence of gangs.

Organised crime.

Perhaps also there has to be greater flexibility in recognising the experience of overseas officers applying to become police officers here.

New Zealand First has learned of one Kiwi who is a police officer in Sydney with six years’ experience and over three years as a youth liaison officer who considered returning and joining the NZ Police.

He has decided not to because he does not want to go back to square one to train as a raw recruit.

New Zealand First shares the vision you have for this conference:

People First.

We say: Let’s get more police first.

Thank you.

ENDS


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