7 August 2020

$100 million package to upgrade regional police stations

| Hannah Sparks
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Exterior of Bigga Police Station.

The residence at Bigga Police Station has been renovated in preparation for the return of a live-in officer. Photo: Hannah Sparks.

A $100 million NSW Government package to upgrade or build new police stations in regional NSW will go some way towards clearing a multi-million dollar maintenance backlog.

In southeast NSW, Goulburn, Queanbeyan, Bega, Jindabyne and Tathra will get new police stations, while Braidwood Police Station has been approved for an upgrade.

Perisher and Thredbo will also get new small police stations.

So far, Goulburn Police Station has been approved for funding of $25 million and preliminary planning has begun including finding a suitable location.

The redevelopment of Queanbeyan Police Station has already begun and is scheduled for completion in 2021.

NSW Police is dealing with a backlog of upgrades, according to a spokesperson from the Police Association of NSW.

“Looking at the last budget, we are not surprised they [NSW Government] are continuing to invest outside of metro,” said the spokesperson. “It has been a perennial issue. Country cops back in the last century had shocking workplaces so we welcome the upgrades.”

The current Goulburn Police Station is among many NSW stations deemed no longer fit for purpose.

A document obtained by Region Media shows there was a backlog of maintenance of more than $61 million at NSW police stations in 2018.

The same document shows the average age of the state’s 432 police stations is 70 years and that the expected useful life of a regional small police station is 40 years.

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“Most regional small police stations across NSW are past their expected useful life and lack the functionality and capacity to enable policing services now and into the future,” reads the document.

“In addition, the condition as measured by a condition grade index of these police stations is below levels tolerable by the community and employees, and lower than benchmarked peers.

“Prioritisation of scarce capital funding often results in investment in metropolitan stations at the expense of regional small stations. The six police stations in the 2018-2022 Regional Small Station Program have been assessed on their ability to enable policing services according to condition, capacity and functionality.”

Braidwood and Tathra are among those six police stations in the Regional Small Station Program.

The new and upgraded stations will be manned by existing officers and the additional 1500 permanent officers the government has also promised will flow into the NSW Police Force during the next four years.

In NSW Police’s latest available annual report, Commissioner Michael Fuller APM said it was the biggest increase in police officer numbers in more than three decades.

“By 2023, all police districts and police area commands will receive at least one additional officer to monitor offenders on the Child Protection Register as well as a specialist elder abuse prevention officer,” he said.

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“We’ll also see more officers allocated to region enforcement squads across NSW and more officers available for Strike Force Raptor’s work to combat drug and gun crime and disrupt organised crime. Specialist commands responding to emerging crime issues, such as the Rural Crime Prevention Team and the Cybercrime Squad, will also receive a boost.”

Investment in regional policing will also allow officers to refocus on community policing.

“As police officers, we want to ensure we are building long-lasting relationships with local communities based on trust and mutual respect,” said Inspector Matthew Hinton, officer in charge of Goulburn Police Station.

“For us to do our job successfully, we rely on the local community to work with us and support what we do.

“The community is often our eyes and ears when it comes to investigating crimes within the community, and we appreciate the support they give us day in, day out.”

The NSW Government says the safety and security of regional communities is one of its highest priorities. Public order and safety is now one of its largest recurrent expenditures following the additional investment into the NSW Police Force.

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