5 Nov 2014

Police to charge for vetting checks

7:13 am on 5 November 2014

Opposition parties say they are shocked to learn new fees police will soon charge for police checks won't apply to the likes of concert promoters as first expected, but to teachers and social workers.

Anne Tolley.

Anne Tolley, a former Police Minister, presented the bill in the House. Photo: RNZ

Legislation allowing police to charge for some of their services, at this stage vetting for criminal records, has passed its first hurdle in Parliament.

The Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill allows police to charge a fee for any service they do not consider to be core business.

Core business includes responding to calls for assistance, and conducting criminal investigations and prosecutions.

Minister Anne Tolley presented the bill to Parliament and told the House that police vetting is an extra service and public agencies and private organisations would be charged the new fee.

"Such as education, community services, caregiving and other health services.

"The vetting service provides employers with relevant background information on potential employees that may have a bearing on the suitability of an individual to work in a particular environment, interacting with potential vulnerable people, or handling sensitive information."

Mrs Tolley, a former Police Minister, said most organisations would be able to absorb the cost, or pass it on to individual who's benefiting from the police check.

New Zealand is among the few countries which don't already charge for services such as police vetting, including Australia, she said.

Phil Goff.

Phil Goff Photo: RNZ

Labour's Phil Goff told Parliament he initially thought that the charges would only be for commercial, profit-making organisations.

"The police are there for the public good and where the goal is the public good there should be no charging.

"So what we expected was a bill that said we'll charge the entertainment industry, we'll charge the big professional sporting organisations and we get is a bill that is going to charge our kids, our teachers, our schools and our social workers."

Labour MP and a former principal, Kelvin Davis, told the House police checks are crucial to ensure a safe school environment.

Kelvin Davis.

Kelvin Davis. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

Mr Davis said they didn't just vet teachers, but librarians, gardeners and anyone else working on the school grounds, which would cost a lot if the school had to foot the bill.

"The Teachers Council is not a profit generating company or organisation and the cost of the vetting would fall directly on teachers or schools or the council itself.

"It's fine to say now that it's $7.70, who's to say that in years to come it doesn't become $27.70 or $50.70 and it starts costing about the same as what we're hearing is costing over in Australia there."

Despite its reservations, Labour supported the bill to select committee, saying it would be useful to have a broader public discussion.

The bill's first reading was opposed by the Maori Party, and the Greens.