Community demands continued police presence

Among those who spoke at a public meeting on the future of the Howick police station were, from left, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, police inspector Colin Higson, Botany MP Christopher Luxon, and Howick Local Board chairperson Adele White. Times photo Chris Harrowell

Police have delivered a strong public commitment to maintain a physical presence in Howick despite uncertainty surrounding the future of the community’s local station.

About 200 people packed into Howick Bowling Club on May 26 for a 90-minute public meeting on the issue called by Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown and Botany MP Christopher Luxon.

The audience heard from the two MPs, Howick Local Board chairperson Adele White, Howick ward councillor Sharon Stewart and Counties Manukau East Police area prevention manager inspector Colin Higson.

Luxon opened the meeting by saying the community has huge respect and is very grateful for the service it receives from local police.

Sergeant Scott Baker and the community constables based at the Howick station “do an outstanding job for us”, he said.

“We are very blessed to have a great team of people and we all respect the work Scott and his team do.”

Police’s history in Howick

Brown said east Auckland has a long history with police and there’s been a police presence in Howick since 1855.

From 2003 officers were based at 34 Moore Street, which will soon be put up for sale by Auckland Council, with the majority of locally-based police moving in 2012 to Counties Manukau East Police headquarters in Ormiston Road, he said.

“Last year Auckland Council, in its infinite wisdom, decided to sell the land at 34 Moore Street, the building next door and the land under the police station under its Covid-19 [emergency] budget,” Brown said.

“That land is coming up for sale in the very near future.

“There are questions around what the police presence will look like going forward, when they have to move, timings around the purchase, and what they want to do.”

Ormiston far away for some

White, a former police constable, said a police presence in Howick is “important to our people”.

She said the closest police station other than Howick is in Ormiston Road, which is a 15-20 minute drive from the centre of Howick, or a 54-minute trip on two buses, with an 11 minute walk after that.

“It’s a similar scenario from Highland Park Shopping Centre and Pakuranga Plaza.

“The police’s aim is to have the trust and confidence of all to contribute to New Zealand being the safest country in the world.

“Providing a service to meet the needs of a multi-cultural community of all ages and who collectively have a strong desire to live in a safe environment, would certainly contribute significantly to this.

“I believe our people are quite fairly asking for continuation of visible and accessible police presence here in Howick.”

Members of the audience asked questions and made statements during the meeting, including about police response times and a suggestion the local community should object to the sale of 34 Moore Street.

A member of the Howick and Pakuranga Community Patrol said the group would need to find a new base if the council sells the property.

Several hundred people attended the meeting at Howick Bowling Club on May 26. Photo supplied

‘The land will be sold’

Higson said the fact so many people had come out to talk about the issue “shows the strength of feeling in the community” about it.

“We have already given a very public undertaking we will maintain a public presence in the Howick community. What that looks like is a different question.

“The important thing to realise is the land will be sold.

“We need to work together with the community to work out a solution that gives the community what it wants.

“What I’m hearing from the community is you want a police station or a police presence in the community, so collectively how do we achieve that purpose?”

He said officers at the Howick station perform a very specific role and the police who respond to 111 emergency calls in east Auckland are based in Ormiston.

Three key scenarios

Higson said there are three possible scenarios as to what happens in future.

The first and preferred option is for police to find an alternative premises “which essentially mirrors what we currently have” in Howick.

“It needs to be a premises that has got security for our vehicles, security for our equipment and a place we can lock up and leave when staff aren’t working.”

The second option would be some sort of “pop-up” service or presence, Higson said.

“We could have a shop-front situation where we would make it known what time and day police are available for members of the community to drop in and report any issues they may have or anything they need the local police to be aware of.”

That option would not provide police with security for their vehicles or other equipment.

“If neither of those options becomes available we need to revisit where we’re at, and how do we have a public face within Howick.”

‘Standard of service maintained’

Higson says police need to be prepared to move the building that is the current Howick station if necessary.

“That building belongs to us. It’s portable, but it’s connected to the drains, the electricity, and the other services.

“If a new owner was to say they want us off that land, we would more or less have a month to do that unless we could negotiate longer. We are on a month-by-month lease on that land.”

He said the property’s new owner may decide they’re happy for police to stay at the site until resource consent for any development is obtained.

“The new owner may decide they want police as a tenant, in which case we would stay until we’re given notice to quit [the site].

“We do not know who the new owner will be. We do not know that person’s intentions.

“We do not know whether they want us to remain as tenants or not.

“The key message from me is whether from the community team or the team based at Ormiston, we are aiming to maintain the same standard of service for the community, because that is our job.”

Luxon closed the meeting by saying he along with Brown, White, and councillors Stewart and Young, would talk to Panuku and identify the best course of action before updating the community.