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Police staffing review

An internal police ‘realignment’ could see some Western Southland police roles shifted in an effort to improve coverage.

A review of future structure and deployment options began in November, and subsequent staff submissions were considered from early December until last Monday. The consultation document obtained by the Advocate states that along with candid conversations, two separate reports were submitted to police concerning the current structure, staff welfare and service delivery in Western Southland.

A key proposal is removing the officer-in-charge position from Te Anau, in favour of a second supervising sergeant in Winton. The document says that grouping similar roles and having more supervision in Winton will extend its scope and quality overall.

Due to the high proportion of road incidents in Te Anau, it is also proposed to convert one Public Safety Team (PST) role to the Road Policing Team (RPT).

“Te Anau to Milford has the third highest personal risk score in New Zealand. Under the recent Road Policing Restructure there has been the placement of an additional road policing position at Lumsden in acknowledgement of the risk in that general area,” the document states.

A contributing report into the management of Te Anau station was completed last year, and identified serious issues with staffing, rostering, and relief cover.

“The planning and rostering for events, long weekends and holiday periods has been poor and multiple staff have been allowed leave which has created gaps in the rosters and the need for urgent relief from Invercargill,” the report states.

To compensate for the loss of a full-time officer in Te Anau, the station report suggests employing volunteers to man the front desk

“This will reduce the time spent by sworn staff especially the Sergeant answering the public counter. A volunteer can take lost and found property reports, put informants onto [Crime Reporting Line] to report crime/incidents and make appointments.”

Southland District mayor Gary Tong said the potential for a restructure was unexpected.

“I’m surprised by the review, and by a couple of the discussion points, especially around moving the officer in charge of a busy station some distance away.”

The Te Anau community relied on an active and engaged police force, he said.

“The station up here is on a significant highway… all requiring front-line, well-trained staff, not relievers,” he said. “Driving into Milford isn’t like driving up Tay Street in Invercargill.”

It was Southland taxpayers who employed the police force, and they had a right to know what was being considered, Mr Tong said. Consultation would be required not only with police, “but also people who are going to call the police for any reason”.

Those who made internal staffing decisions didn’t necessarily have an understanding of the area, nor first hand experience of police work, Mr Tong said.

“It comes down to the dirty dollar,” he said. “I would certainly welcome those that are going to be making those decision to come down and go for a drive, have a look at the environment that these guys are working in.”

Police confirmed to the Advocate that the review is taking place but declined to comment while it is ongoing. The review document states that a decision will be made some time after January 18 once submissions are considered.

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