Olympic costs defended by police

Police have defended the cost of sending five officers to the London Olympics, a group that includes a high-ranking Manawatu officer.

Fairfax Media, which owns the Manawatu Standard, revealed yesterday that the cost to New Zealand taxpayers of sending five police officers to the Games could be up to $150,000.

The men - two inspectors, two detective inspectors and a non-sworn member of the National Intelligence Centre - have no police authority while in London, acting only as plainclothes "liaison officers" to our athletes and the New Zealand High Commission.

In the group is Inspector Mark Harrison, area commander for the police's Palmerston North rural region. That includes the Horowhenua and Manawatu districts.

Police would not say last month how much was being spent on the trip, but information obtained under the Official Information Act shows police are spending almost $1000 a person a day on four of the men's accommodation and allowances.

The fifth officer is funded by the NZ Olympic Committee. That officer's costs were not known but total costs for accommodation, flights and daily allowances for the other four comes to $145,676.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said it was money well spent. "You can't put a price on ensuring the safety and welfare of Kiwis at a major event like the Olympics and [Wednesday night's] fire at Kiwi House proves that point.

"Two New Zealand police liaison officers were quickly on the scene to assist local emergency services and ensure that all Kiwis caught up in this event were safe and accounted for."

The five police liaison staff in Britain during the Olympics are deployed around all the main venues where the Games are taking place, including the sailing event in Weymouth.

"We have deployed police staff to previous Olympic and Commonwealth Games, and each year we deploy to the annual Gallipoli commemorations. The 2012 London Olympics is no different, with several thousand Kiwis known to be involved in some way.

"Of course we have done what we can to keep costs down, but the reality of deploying to an event like this is costs will always be high."

Manawatu Standard