Crime and fear are plaguing the flood-hit areas of Coromandel, East Cape and Hawke’s Bay and the army should be deployed to help restore order, says Federated Farmers.
Chief executive Terry Copeland has urged the government to act now and use the army to reassure and support rural areas (wāhi tuawhenua).
Copeland has been in Hawke’s Bay recently and met those cleaning up flood damage (pakaru waipuke) . Many in isolated areas are feeling vulnerable and have fears for the safety of themselves and property, he said.
There have been reports of people casing properties, going onto farmers’ land or into “areas they don’t have business to be in”.
“The criminal element is operating and intimidating in isolated rural and farming areas, and a perception is not enough is being done to rein them in,” Copeland said.
He said the police are doing a great job “but the army would increase the reach of state authority and support to rural areas”.
He said there is no need for curfews or army enforcement powers. The army could travel to isolated regions and make itself available to meet communities’ needs.
“Rural communities are tight knit and self-reliant, but they could do with the reassurance and support of the army’s neutral presence.
“Exhausted people in flood-hit areas are very vulnerable, and the state is not there with them at enough scale. They need the reassurance of the army presence, and criminals need the army to deter them.”
Feds says the criminal element is operating and intimidating in isolated rural and farming areas, and a perception is not enough is being done to rein them in.
Copeland said the army was used to patrol streets following the Christchurch earthquake, and if the government were to do something similar now it would show the “rural community that it is not a forgotten casualty”.
ACT and NZ First have already called for the armed forces to take control of Hawke’s Bay streets after reports of violence and looting following Cyclone Gabrielle.
However, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has previously said he felt the police had the situation under control and the number of law and order issues was actually lower than normal.