Speech to the NZ Police Association 79th Annual Conference

  • Michael Woodhouse

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā hau e whā. 

Ka nui te hari ahau kua tae mai nei, I waenganui a koutou me tēnei hui. No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Good morning everyone and thank you for the invitation to open your annual conference, my first as Minister of Police.

I am looking forward to the challenges that come with this exciting portfolio and to understanding the business of policing.

I am also looking forward to getting out and visiting as many stations and meeting as many staff as I can.

The next few days will no doubt provoke discussion and comment – and that’s very healthy.

My first impressions are that Police is an organisation staffed by highly skilled, highly professional men and women delivering excellent results for New Zealanders.

Crime is at a 35-year low, last year saw the lowest road toll since 1950 and the Police have enviably high levels of public trust and confidence.

As you will be aware, the National government is committed to building better public services and Police also has a key role to play in the cross-agency public service approach we are building as part of this commitment.

Significant progress has already been made in the four Justice Sector targets being met by the 2017 deadline. These are:

  • A 15 percent reduction in total crime compared to June 2011 baseline figures;
  • A 20 percent reduction in violent crime compared to June 2011;
  • A 25 percent reduction in youth crime compared to June 2011;
  • And a 25 percent reduction in re-offending.

As of 31 March this year, the total crime rate was down by 16 percent and Youth Court appearances were down by 30 percent - both ahead of target.

While the crime-rate is now at a 35-year-low, we are determined to reduce the crime rate even further. That is why we are introducing a new Better Public Service target to reduce crime by 20 per cent by 2017.

The other two target areas are tracking very well, with violent crime down by 11 percent and re-offending down by 12.2 percent. These are great results, and a credit to all the hard work and service you provide to help make our communities safer.

These results are in large part due to the more efficient and effective practices Police has adopted under the Policing Excellence programme over the past five years.

It also shows that the focus on crime prevention by our frontline officers is getting the results we all wanted – safer communities and fewer victims of crime.

I want to thank Police staff for their great efforts in achieving these results. I am well aware of the dedication, sacrifices and bravery shown by Police officers and this has been highlighted most recently with the incident at Waitakere hospital. I can tell you it is hugely appreciated, and I am aware the Prime Minister is presenting bravery awards here later today.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Police on their success at this year’s IPANZ awards – taking out the Prime Minister's overall Award for Excellence for Prevention First. As well as the Supreme Award, Police won four categories at the awards. That is a fantastic achievement and something you can all be extremely proud of.

As a Minister, I am very interested in delivering better outcomes for New Zealanders in an effective and efficient manner.

The Government has announced some important policy and legislative changes which will be progressed over this term. You guys play an important role in the development and implementation of these changes. You are out there on the frontline. You know what works, what doesn’t work and what needs to change.

With input from you, these changes will help deliver better outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society and will also put in place stronger measures for those small groups who contribute a disproportionate amount of crime in our country.

The policy changes include:

  • introducing legislation to manage high risk child sex offenders and the associated Child Protection Offender Register
  • implementing the Whole of Government Action Plan on Gangs

Work on introducing New Zealand's first Child Protection Offender Register is underway and it is expected to be operational by 2016.

The register will be held on a secure database and will provide information to a dedicated risk management unit of Police and Corrections staff and psychologists. They will identify, monitor and manage the risk posed by convicted child sex offenders who have come to the end of their sentences, or are serving non-custodial sentences, so action can be taken before re-offending takes place.

It is estimated that 472 offenders will be registered in the first year, rising to 1541 in year four when an evaluation will be completed, with a total of 2746 offenders registered after ten years. Registration will apply to offenders convicted in New Zealand, and those who move here following a similar conviction overseas.

For the first time, a multi-agency approach involving intelligence-gathering enhanced law enforcement, prevention, intervention, rehabilitation and reintegration will be adopted to address New Zealand gangs and trans-national crime groups and the harm they cause.

The whole of Government action plan addresses the issue through four initiatives:

  • A multi-agency Gang Intelligence Centre led by Police will collect and combine intelligence on real-time gang activity to support investigation, prevention and enforcement, while also identifying vulnerable children and family members who may need social service support. It will also identify youths at risk of joining gangs, so that agencies can target interventions to help steer them away from gang life.
  • Start at Home: a programme of social initiatives will be developed to address the intergenerational nature of gang life, to support families and members turn away from the gang lifestyle, and to help support communities where there is a large gang presence, by reducing gang tension. It will also include gang prisoner reintegration and rehabilitation programmes to be developed by Corrections, with access to violence and addiction services and support to access training, education, employment and housing, possibly in new locations away from gang life. Safety, planning and support will also be provided to women with gang connections at risk of family violence on release from prison.
  • Two multi-agency Dedicated Enforcement Taskforces will be established. The Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Border Protection Taskforce will target drug trafficking networks to stop new gangs entering New Zealand and restrict international gang travel. The Criminal Asset Confiscation Taskforce will strengthen asset recovery efforts, prevent financing of crime and target profits received from crime.
  • The Sentencing Act will be amended to allow courts to stipulate 24-hour GPS monitoring on high-risk gang affiliates following release from a prison sentence, as part of their conditions of release or sentence. This will prevent them from associating with other members at gang headquarters or places where gangs congregate. It will also provide intelligence on their activities.

Other legislation will also be reviewed. Officials are to provide advice by the end of the year on options around Firearm Prohibition Orders, (FPOs) which could prohibit serious gang offenders from possessing or obtaining firearms, and also penalise anyone who knowingly supplies firearms to someone subject to an FPO.

Police and the Ministry of Justice will explore Interim Freezing Orders on bank accounts and cash, and possible unexplained wealth laws, for those convicted of drug trafficking or similar offences.

These two areas underline the collaborative approach we want to see across the public sector to prevent crime and reduce victimisation. New Zealand Police is an organisation that embraces this approach.

But Government doesn’t have a mortgage on good ideas to make our communities safer.  You are in the best position to understand what new strategies would help, and I want to encourage you to continue to identify them, through the Policing Excellence: the Future operating strategy, through this Association, or directly to me. 

Thank you again for the opportunity to come and open you conference today. The future for New Zealand Police is very bright, and I thank the Association, its members and all members of Police for your support and enthusiasm and the work you do for New Zealanders every day.