Police drop proposal to reduce Wakefield strength
Wakefield will keep its two police officers, following a passionate response from the community against a plan to shift one officer to Motueka.
Wakefield vicar Allan Walsely said the rethink was a "victory of common sense", and he was pleased that the community had got the result it was seeking.
Mr Walsely, who is also the chairman of the Wakefield Community Council, said it was a great outcome, not only for Wakefield but also for Brightwater and Tapawera. "In the end, it will also be a great result for the person who will not end up the single cop," he said. "I don't think anyone would have survived that for long."
Police bosses said last month they were looking to shift one of Wakefield's two officers to Motueka to help with the 24-hour staffing of that station.
Under the proposal, the Wakefield police station was to remain open and the remaining Wakefield officer would still be on call.
The current Wakefield officers are Marty Tutton and Peter Cobledick.
Yesterday, police said that as a result of the submissions and feedback received, the two constable positions at the Wakefield station would be retained.
Mr Walsely said it was ideal to have police officers on the spot, and the existing situation had worked well.
He said he understood the police's dilemma and pressure of working with a sinking lid on funding, but the reality was that reducing the number of officers in Wakefield was not the best answer. Officers based in the community built up important relationships and helped to prevent crime.
West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O' Connor, who opposed the Wakefield proposal, saying it risked the safety of residents, said the announcement was good news.
"It's always pleasing to know that proposals can be amended if the public feel strongly enough about them. I acknowledge the police in their wisdom and listening to local opinion and coming up with an alternative proposal which hopefully is just as effective in protecting the community."
Mr O'Connor said having police officers in the community increased public confidence, and they were the eyes and ears of law and order.
He said methods of policing were constantly changing, and he accepted that police were looking at different ways of doing things.
"The reality is they are being squeezed by a government determined to cut back in every area of public service, and guys at the front line, like [Nelson Bays area commander] Steve Greally, are having to stretch his limited resources further and further."
It is the second time that police have looked at reducing the number of officers in Nelson.
The idea was explored, and rejected due to opposition, as part of a major restructuring of the Nelson Bays police force last year.
One of the major changes then was staffing the Motueka station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so police could respond immediately to emergencies at night rather than being on call.
Mr Greally said last month a review of the 24-hour Motueka coverage had shown that non-general duties staff had been called in when officers were sick or on leave, which was not ideal.
He said that to ensure the smooth running of that shift, it was necessary to boost numbers in Motueka. Two officers would be added to the general duty officers, bringing the number of general duty constables to 10. One of those two extra officers would come from Wakefield.
Police said yesterday the other proposals in the restructuring remained under consultation, and decisions had yet to be finalised.
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