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Govt sticks to 500 police boost but leaves fiscal cliff on cost pressures

Author
Adam Pearse,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 May 2024, 2:39pm
The Government is committing to delivering 500 more officers in two years. Photo / NZME
The Government is committing to delivering 500 more officers in two years. Photo / NZME

Govt sticks to 500 police boost but leaves fiscal cliff on cost pressures

Author
Adam Pearse,
Publish Date
Thu, 30 May 2024, 2:39pm

 

The Government is spending more than $220 million to honour its commitment to train 500 new police by the end of next year amid doubts from police it can be achieved.

That’s despite only $13m of the funding allocated for the 2024/25 financial year.

It comes alongside $120m of time-limited money to address cost pressures but police has been told it must make further cuts to “improve its fiscal sustainability”, according to Budget documents.

A total of $226m in operating and capital spending has been earmarked to facilitate the increase in police frontline staff. The National and New Zealand First coalition agreement promised to boost police by 500 officers in the first two years.

In February, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the target was “certainly ambitious”, given the impact of attrition and recruitment challenges such as Australian police attracting Kiwi staff. Police Association president Chris Cahill has also expressed doubts about whether the 500 target can be achieved.

The increase would take police’s constabulary workforce to 10,711 full-time employees.

“It is expected that the funding will go towards increasing police presence in communities, improving responsiveness to emergency calls, addressing serious youth crime and preventing gang intimidation,” Associate Police Minister Casey Costello said.

A further $242.2m would go towards police pay, however, the oustanding pay negotiations between police and the Police Association were identified as a financial risk for the Government going forward.

Almost $63m would allow police to replace and maintain its vehicles and boats.

That included 55 specialist vehicles, 12 heavy vehicles like those used by the Armed Offenders Squad, the replacement of a police boat, 26 Skoda police cars, five dog section utes and 40 surveillance vehicles.

“Last year alone, police responded to over 1.2m events. So I am pleased new specialist vehicles are coming for Armed Offenders Squads, new utes for dog handlers and rural cops, as well as patrol cars for our beat police officers,” Police Minister Mark Mitchell said.

“Funding will also include a new boat for the Auckland Police Maritime Unit which is essential to keeping people safe on Auckland’s busy waterways.”

With a budget of about $2 billion, police fell well short in its efforts to find the Government’s desired 6.5 per cent of cuts, finding just $55m which was always set to be reinvested in the frontline.

This year’s Budget included $120m to address cost pressures, but only for the coming financial year - meaning it was one of the Government’s fiscal cliffs or time-limited funding, something it had criticised the previous government for.

The Budget said the funding was temporary as police was “expected to implement further measures and identify opportunities across its operating model, roles and functions to help manage costs in the future and improve its fiscal sustainability”.

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.

 

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