10 Aug 2016

Govt grilled over rethink on police numbers

7:38 pm on 10 August 2016

The government has been grilled over its change of heart on increasing police numbers in Parliament today.

01082016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Police Parade celebrating 75 years of women being in the police force. Judith Collins,  Minister of Corrections and Police.

Police Minister Judith Collins says numbers must increase to keep pace with population growth. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

For months, the government has insisted there are enough police officers, but yesterday said numbers could be boosted to keep up with the growing population.

During parliamentary question time today, Labour police spokesperson Stuart Nash asked Police Minister Judith Collins about the government's rethink on police numbers.

"Why has she said for months that funding and resources are sufficient, and dismissed everyone - including the Police Association that challenged this - when clearly this is not the case," Mr Nash asked.

Ms Collins responded: "I think I've made it very clear that at the moment it is all right, but the trouble is that we are looking to the future.

"And we're looking to the fact that so many New Zealanders come back from overseas and the population's rising because of it, and we're no longer losing 40,000 Kiwis a year as we did under a previous government."

Mr Nash then asked why, if the government was looking to the future, the police's new four-year strategy said police numbers would not be increased until 2020.

Mrs Collins said the police's four-year strategy was not necessarily the government's strategy - but then confirmed she signed off on it in May.

New Zealand First MP Darroch Ball asked the minister about what he said were rocketing crime figures.

"Is she aware that raw frontline police data shows that in 2008 police attended 240,000 confirmed offences, compared with 2015 where they attended 280,000 confirmed offences?"

Mr Ball then asked how the government could claim crime was falling.

The minister responded: "The crime rates are looked at on a per capita basis, the population has increased by about 400,000 in New Zealand, because people like living under a John Key-led government."

This week, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said an election bottom line for his party would be a significant increase, equalling between 1000 and 2000 extra police over the next five years.