In this year’s Land Champions edition, we celebrate domestic and imported people in agriculture, from the Italian clan that owns a slice of North Otago wool production to the teacher rebooting ag education in the hort heartland if western Bay of Plenty.
There’s been considerable commentary recently about rural policing or the lack of it. In Wairarapa we’re lucky – we have a team of six committed and experienced officers who understand rural issues.
I heard an address at a JP’s function on community policing by our local Area Commander, Inspector Scott Miller. He came across as both committed and competent. His remedies appealed to me as being community-focused and effective.
Miller has been developing his rural team over the past two years and it is now up and running. The members have a good relationship with smaller towns and the rural community.
He admits that at the start farmers had little confidence in the police. They had to build that confidence by developing trust and relationships and opening strong and effective channels of communications.
The Rural Policing Team are visible at stock sales and in the community. A group of us were having coffee at the Riversdale Store one morning when Constable Peter Cunningham turned up, introduced himself and told us what he did and what he wanted to achieve. It was low key and impressive.
He explained how often a problem isn’t criminal but that the police could help with other issues, such as conflict resolution.
Another team member, Constable Selena Blayney, says she is working with farmers to get them to report thefts and trespassing. She realises they are busy and that one stolen chainsaw, for example, may not seem important – but the issue is that if the police know about stolen chainsaws, they are often able to establish a pattern and apprehend the offender.
With poaching the issue is the same. The police want to put a picture together and fix the problem. The team currently has prosecutions in front of the Courts, which I believe is encouraging.
Miller puts major emphasis on community involvement. Off-duty officers are encouraged to keep their eyes and ears open when out of town. Some are keen fishers and hunters and have strong links to locals.
Another link is with the Rural Support Trust through local facilitator the Rev Steve Thomson. Miller makes the point that he regularly meets with Thomson, who briefs him on current issues and problems. He finds it most helpful.
“If Steve sees a problem my door is always open.”
He says if farmers have a problem happening now they should dial 111. If they are reporting an event that has already happened they should call 105.
He makes the additional point that an event happening in real time can involve frontline officers who will pass it on to the Rural Support Team.
“We need to connect, investigate and reply,” he says. The rural team provides a weekly newsletter as to what is going on in the district and it is most helpful.
I was impressed with the police’s rural operation in Wairarapa. I believe they are making a difference, for which the locals will be grateful.
Finally, it is great to see police back in the community, making it a safer place.