NT Police will be forced to close remote police stations “overnight” if federal funding is not extended past June next year, the police association warned, as the war of words between the federal and NT governments continued.
Police Association president Paul McCue said the funding that was established after the 2007 intervention was crucial to how NT Police provide services in remote areas and helped pay for 58 police officers to work remotely.
“Some of that money also goes towards repairs and maintenance of facilities, but imagine if that didn’t exist – quire simply some of those stations would shut overnight,” he told Mix 104.9.
“There simply wouldn’t be enough police to staff them and that would be a terrible outcome for many of those remote communities that want police to remain.”
Mr McCue added the decrepit and outdated infrastructure for police in remote communities was a major problem.
“There are many permanent stations that are well overdue for replacement or upgrades. This is why this funding is so important,” he said. “But it’s also important that there’s consultation with the commissioner and his senior team to actually make sure that funding is put in the right places.”
The federal and NT governments have been squabbling over the funding since mid-last year.
On Tuesday, CLP Senator Sam McMahon said she was “working towards extending remote policing funding” but warned the Gunner Government that the funding would come with new arrangements to ensure “better staffing and infrastructure outcomes for Territory police”.
“What we need to see is that the funding is supported by the adequate infrastructure delivered by the Northern Territory Government,” she said.
“The more than $20 million annually is supposed to support over 100 police officers remotely, but I am yet to see anywhere that this figure has been achieved, and the challenge of attracting officers is made even harder by the lack of the underlying infrastructure beyond police stations.
“We cannot expect police or their families to live in demountable accommodation. It is one thing to have a police station, but officers need to be accommodated properly.”
Infrastructure Minister Eva Lawler disagreed with Ms McMahon’s assessment and said during a joint press conference about a roads project that she has found that “the police accommodation is usually much better than the teaching and the health accommodation in communities”.
Last September, Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker flagged staffing issues across remote communities and suggested the NT Government was not in a financial position to fund police to service remote police stations.
“We do not have own source revenue that is going to sustain a 1200-strong constables and above police force servicing 1.4 million square kilometres,” Mr Chalker said at the time.
Ms McMahon suggested that if the Gunner Government can address the infrastructure problems then “police can work much closer with the community leaders in stemming the crime which is taking place, and the issues raised by the Territory Member for [Mulka] could be incorporated into any solution”.
Yingiya Mark Guyula penned an op-ed over the weekend calling for NT Police to leave remote communities with the government instead funding Indigenous, remote community “peacekeepers” to address ongoing youth crime issues.