'Temporarily' closed stations still shut one year on as police deny 'closure by stealth'
One year after they shut "temporarily" Porirua and Upper Hutt's police stations remain closed at weekends.
With no date set for reopening and no work begun on planned security upgrades that were the reason for the closures, some people are questioning if the stations have "closed by stealth".
Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy said the continued closure and excuses from police were wearing thin.
"It's more than frustrating. I keep getting told it's going to open but it doesn't."
But police continue to insist the stations will reopen soon.
In a 2016 review, 121 police sites nationwide were identified as needing safety improvements and some were closed for work to be carried out.
Last year, Guppy was told the police station would be closed at weekends for a maximum nine weeks.
"First it was planning, then it was design, then it was budget. There's always an excuse."
The closures mean Lower Hutt and Wellington Central are the only stations in the region open at weekends.
Porirua Mayor Mike Tana had met with community police about the issue but had not been told the station would definitely reopen.
"It's not a great look to say one thing and do another."
Labour police spokesman Stuart Nash said the weekend closures were "closure by stealth" and if they were going to reopen they would have done so by now.
"Absolutely it's an excuse. How long does it take to do a safety upgrade?"
He cited a two-week safety upgrade of Napier's police station as an example and said the prolonged closures of Porirua and Upper Hutt stations "didn't ring true".
"The use of meth is rising through the roof and burglaries are increasing. You don't address that by closing police stations."
Police minister Paula Bennett's office referred all questions to police.
Wellington's District Commander, Superintendent Steve Kehoe, said a review into security measures of front counters across the country was ongoing.
"A date for completion has not been set," he said. "The public can be reassured that while the front counter of a police station may be closed, this does not mean there are not police officers working in the area."
On Tuesday, a police spokeswoman said the stations would reopen "in the near future".
Police Association president Chris Cahill didn't think the stations were closed permanently but doubted they would be open in the near future.
"Near is a relative term and from what I'm aware of I wouldn't use the "near" word."
CLOSED IN KAPITI
Kapiti Mayor K Gurunathan said the case of a stepfather who beat his daughter's rapist after being unable to contact anyone at a closed police station was an extreme example of what can happen when a station is closed.
"The police symbol shouldn't be a deserted building."
Last year, the man and his partner drove to the Kapiti police station and found it shut.
His step-daughter had been raped two days before and they wanted to give information to police.
It was 10am on a Saturday morning, but the station has been closed at weekends since 2013.
As they headed home they saw the man who would be convicted of the rape, Jason Haward, on the side of the road. They stopped the car and the man assaulted him.
The man was found guilty by a jury of injuring with intent to injure and is expected to be sentenced next week.
Inspector Tracey Thompson said: "It is a priority for local staff to ensure the front counter remains open, however given the nature of policing, there may be occasions where constabulary staff are deployed from the station for a range of reasons. This may include road crashes or other violent and serious crime that is occurring which demands a priority response."