by Greta Yeoman
The opening hours of South Canterbury police stations are again in the spotlight after community concerns were raised at a Twizel Community Board meeting.
When contacted by The Courier, board chairwoman Jacqui de Buyzer said board members had received quite a few comments from residents about the Twizel station’s hours.
The issue was discussed at last month’s board meeting.
Community representatives from across South Canterbury told The Courier when stations were closed there was less direct access to the police, residents had to phone in with issues and were often transferred to the Timaru station, and people could not walk in and report lost or found items.
Ms de Buyzer said the Twizel station used to be manned by volunteers between 10am and 2pm.
But health and safety changes last year meant members of the public could staff the front desk only if a sworn police staff member was in the building, making this nearly impossible, she said.
The changes had been introduced for the safety of non-sworn staff, police representatives said at the time.
The station was now often closed which meant the public were forced to call the station with any queries or issues, and were often transferred, she said.
“[You] ring and get put through to Timaru.”
Temuka Community Board chairman Paddy O’Reilly, who spoke to the The Courier in September last year about the issue, said this week the station in his town was also still often closed.
He believed part of the problem was to do with funding of police, as too few officers were available to both patrol the town and staff the station.
“It is a concern for us.”
He had written to Police Minister Stuart Nash and Canterbury rural area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin but to no avail.
“[We have] heard nothing further,” Mr O’Reilly said.
Insp Gaskin said there were no plans to change the situation.
He said residents could contact police by phone, the police website or social media if their nearby station was closed.
“Online is a good way.
“If it is urgent, ring 111.”
Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon, who was contacted by Mr O’Reilly last year, said despite Mr Nash having said South Canterbury was “under-resourced” before the election, he had refused to commit to trying to get more officers in the area.
Mr Nash had explained to him during parliamentary question time this was potentially because deployment of police officers was the responsibility of the Commissioner of Police, Mr Falloon said.
However, when the question of deployment of officers was put to New Zealand Police, supplied comments from Insp Gaskin said any investment to recruit more officers had not yet been announced by the Government.
Because of this, police were unable to comment on recruitment expectations for the area.
However, station opening hours do not seem to be an issue across all of South Canterbury.
Fairlie Community Board chairman Les Blacklock described the Fairlie police station situation as “hunky-dory”.
Geraldine Community Board chairman Wayne O’Donnell said he was “not aware” of any issues.
A Waimate District Council representative told The Courierto contact the police for comment on the district’s situation.
Ms de Buyzer said Insp Gaskin would be attending the next Twizel Community Board meeting on Monday, along with Sergeant Mike van der Heyden, of Temuka.
Access to stations, for queries such as those about lost or found items, was “just really nice for the community”, she said.
“[It is] just the little things.”