Sworn officer roles in Palmerston North look set to be cut in a major shakeup of the Central Police District.
Central District area commander Superintendent Russell Gibson met with Police Association members yesterday to discuss the proposals, which include moving sworn positions around the district, reviewing staffing levels in regional and community stations and merging the district's six policing areas into three groups.
Palmerston North and New Plymouth, the two biggest centres in Central District, will likely be the most affected by any cuts, but exact numbers have not been decided.
Mr Gibson told the Manawatu Standard the plans would not involve redundancies or staff relocations. The changes would be made by "natural attrition", meaning if staff retired, relocated or resigned, their positions would be moved elsewhere.
Mr Gibson said an area like Palmerston North City, which has about 140 sworn positions, was an obvious candidate for cuts.
"We are looking at trying to rebalance workloads across the district.
"We have some areas that are busier than others and it's been many, many years since we've looked at our staffing level rates.
"Two of the areas that are, in my view, under-resourced are the Horowhenua and also Whanganui, and that may mean that in some areas we may need to lose staff to address that.
"I think that Palmerston North and New Plymouth, in particular, have higher levels of police presence than some of those other communities and if I was going to be relocating staff, the likelihood is it would be from those two centres."
Under the changes, Palmerston North city and Palmerston North rural - which encompasses Dannevirke, Levin, Feilding and Otaki - could be merged into a "super" area led by a single commander.
This move would include the creation of several district-wide management positions, including prevention, victim support and deployment roles.
The staffing numbers in smaller regional stations, such as Ashhurst, Hunterville and Foxton Beach, were to be reviewed, while community police stations, including Highbury and Roslyn, would also be looked at.
Mr Gibson said the Highbury station, which is owned by police, was likely to continue in its current state, but the leased Roslyn station was being reviewed.
Taking some positions out of the Feilding station was also a possibility as it was so close to Palmerston North.
He said any plans would include consultation with staff and the community.
"I'm painfully aware that taking even one police officer out of a town conjures up all sorts of images of being deserted or abandoned."
But falling crime rates in the Central District showed police were on the right track, he said.
"I'm quite confident that the strategies in place are working and we will continue to do that preventative work . . . "
The appointment of the proposed area commanders would hopefully be done by Christmas, he said.
Police Association Manawatu chairman Ashley Gurney said it was important for changes to be planned and implemented by managers directly responsible for the affected staff. "We would like to see the structure in place first.
"The area commander for the Palmerston North super area is going to command an area from Otaki through to Dannevirke, and from Pahiatua through to possibly Sanson or Bulls . . . and that comes with lots of different local issues and it needs somebody who has some understanding of the problems and challenges.
"From a Palmerston North point of view, a loss of staff means a loss of service . . . but until we know exactly what we'll be losing and where the area commander sees that coming from, we won't really be in more of a position to comment."
Mr Gurney said the community should be involved in the process.
"If the community are of a view that what we are proposing is not adequate, well I think the district commander needs to hear that and he needs to hear it early."
The moves come soon after changes to the structure of non-sworn staff in the Central District.
Twenty-five non-sworn staff took redundancy during the restructure of support staff, when a file management centre was opened in Palmerston North.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should the council spend $10,000 on an independent fluoridated water assessment?Related story: (See story)
Kathryn King finds out what being a paramedic really means.
Freyberg High School student Rachel Orange plays in the Manawatu Scottish Pipe Band.
View obituaries from around the region
View marriage and birth notices from around the region