Research NZ – low confidence and trust in politicians

Members of Parliament and local council members are the least trusted of a range of professions and groups, and journalists are virtually the same.

Research NZ asked the general public to rate their level of trust and confidence in parliamentary representatives compared to some other professions.

  • Fire Service 89%
  • Ambulance Service 81%
  • Doctors and nurses 81%
  • Police 69%
  • School teachers 65%
  • Lawyers 43%
  • Government workers 35%
  • Journalists 23%
  • Local council members 22%
  • Members of Parliament 22%

Respondents were considered to have trust and confidence if they rated it between 7-10 on a 0-10 scale.

With elected representatives and those who are supposed to hold politicians to account grouped a distant last this doesn’t look good for our democracy.

Is people leaving isolation a big deal?

Obviously if someone in isolation breaks the rules and gets out, and if they have the Covid-19 virus, it’s a fairly big deal. One person who got out this week and visited a supermarket put potentially many people at risk, they caused a supermarket to shut down and do extensive cleaning, and that resulted in many employees going into precautionary self isolation.

But is it too much to expect that with thousands of people in isolation in hotels (not prisons) that a few won’t choose to break the rules?

Perhaps we have to accept that a few escapes are inevitable, and as long as there are comprehensive systems in place to deal with it when it happens we should be reasonably comfortable with what is being done.

But this is an ongoing awkwardness for the Government.

When two women were let out of isolation without being tested – and tested positive after travelling from Auckland to Wellington – the army involvement in managing isolsation and quarantine facilities.  Megan Woods (name corrected) was also installed to cover for the poorly performing Minister of Health David Clark.

Things kept going wrong, people kept getting out.

Clark resigned and Chris Hipkins took over. He handles media interviews much better, and seems to bo on top of the details of the job much better, but people still got out.

The police were called in facilities 24/7, but people kept getting out.

Four people this week left isolation, despite a lot of publicity and public angst and anger.

Is this just something we can expect may keep happening?

The last person who got out, by cutting fence ties and going to buy some booze ended up in prison. Was this a fair warning to all others in isolation, or was it draconian, especially compared to previous consequences for absconders?


Government want police at isolation facilities, but Association unhappy

Minister in charge of Covid isolation facilities Megan Woods announced today there would be a permanent police presence at all isolation and quarantine facilities, but the Police Association says it is

Managed isolation and quarantine update

Following a second incident in which a person escaped from a managed isolation facility, security is being enhanced, including more police presence onsite, Minister Megan Woods said.

“The actions of some individuals who choose to break the very clear rules to stay within the facilities means that more resourcing is needed to protect other New Zealanders from the risk they may present.

“This behaviour is incredibly disappointing, but we are determined to maintain the freedoms we enjoy as New Zealanders in one of the few countries in the world who are free of community transmission of COVID.

“Air Commodore Darryn Webb and I have been speaking with New Zealand Police about implementing further security measures, and there will now be a permanent police presence at each facility,” Megan Woods said.

By tomorrow there will be one police officer stationed at each facility 24/7.

Extra senior security staff will also be added to each facility and security fencing has been boosted.

“All outdoor physical security around facilities that require fencing, including exercise and smoking areas, will have 6 foot high fencing installed by the end of today,” said Darryn Webb.

A lot of people and resources going into trying to stop a small number of people from not following the rules.

But (RNZ):  Police at isolation facilities may mean public less safe – police union

Police Association president Chris Cahill told RNZ’s Checkpoint the move had political elements, and was not the best use of police resources.

He said there was certainly an element of a feel good factor, and it was a distinct possibility that it would mean the public was less safe than otherwise.

“Is that the best priority? To feel good, if it doesn’t actually have a dramatic change in the security of those facilities? … I don’t believe it does.

“I think there’s a degree of making it look that politicians are doing the utmost they can – and I understand that, and New Zealanders want the utmost to be done – but I don’t believe that requires 24/7 police presence.”

He said to fully staff and monitor the managed isolation facilities would take between 150 and 200 police officers who were needed in the community.

“We’ve got police districts that don’t have many more than 200, 250 sworn staff, some of our smaller police districts, so it’s a significant number. It’s certainly not a core policing role.

As simple as this – there will not be cops available to attend family harm incidents, to attend injuries, to attend burglaries, to be on the roads patrolling for dangerous drivers. They have to come from somewhere and that’s the front line.

“This is a job that can be done by aviation security staff, customs staff, immigration staff – the people that aren’t fully utilised due to Covid issues that are created at the border.”

He believed Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield could give those staff the powers they needed to do the job just as effectively as police.

There were already 400 Defence Force troops stationed at the facilities and, he argued, there was not much need to have police there as well.

And security staff.

“If there was clear evidence that police powers were required regularly because people were trying to break the quarantine rules that would be understandable, but there’s no evidence supporting that.

“Policing can be called in when there is a significant issue of someone not following the rules but we’ve only seen two people that appear to have breached those rules so it’s not an issue of having all these officers standing around wating for that to happen.

“I think you have to be realistic. Two runners out of thousands of people that have gone into quarantine is not a great number and my information is only one of those was deliberate, one of them was ignorance.”

Is a 24/7 police presence necessary to protect the public from Covid (presuming the police would be able to stop all ‘escapes’ from facilities)?

Or is the Government putting too many resources and too much money into it to try to avoid the bad political look of people and virus leaks?

Arrest and murder charge following killing of police officer

Yesterday morning in Massey, Auckland a police officer was shot and killed and another was shot and wounded after what was described as a routine traffic stop.

A member of the public was also wounded when hit by a car.

Last night a man was arrsted and charged with murder.

From Police news:  Person charged with murder following shooting of Police officers

Police investigating the fatal shooting of a Police officer in Massey have charged a man with Murder.

A 24-year-old man has been arrested and charged with multiple serious offences including Murder, Attempted Murder and Dangerous Driving Causing Injury.

He will be appearing in the Waitakere District Court tomorrow.

The investigation into this incident is ongoing and Police are not able to rule out the possibility of further persons being charged.

Our thoughts are with the family of the slain Police officer and we are continuing to ensure they are provided with all possible support.

The other injured Police officer and member of public remain in hospital in a serious but stable condition and we are also supporting them and their families.

Police will not be in a position to confirm the identity of the Police officer until tomorrow at the earliest.

Earlier – Commissioner’s statement following Massey incident

It is with a heavy heart that I confirm that one of our colleagues injured in the incident in Massey, West Auckland, today has died.

This is devastating news and absolutely the worst thing for us to deal with. We have lost a colleague and friend in our Police whānau.

Our thoughts are with the officer’s family and loved ones, and with the other officer and member of the public who were injured in the same incident and their loved ones.

From the information we have this was a routine traffic stop and is the type of work our officers do every day to keep the public safe. At this stage there is nothing to indicate that the job was going to be anything out of the ordinary.

At around 10.30am, a police unit has performed a routine traffic stop on Reynella Drive.

The attending officers were shot and a member of the public has also been hit by the vehicle.

The second officer and the member of the public are in hospital where they are being treated for their injuries. The member of the public has minor injuries and the officer has serious injuries.

The alleged offender has fled the scene and enquiries are ongoing to locate them.

While efforts to locate the offender are ongoing staff in Tāmaki Makaurau will be armed.

Our priority is to support our officers and to locate this alleged offender as soon as possible.

This incident points to the real risks our officers face on the streets, doing their jobs, every day.

Staff safety and welfare are our absolute priority and our whole organisation is in a state of shock after these horrific events.

It is bad and sad news when police officers are attacked and shot and killed in the line of duty.

This has already brought up the debate again about the arming of police. This incident will be investigated, but it’s hard to see how police could be prepared for a routine traffic stop on a Friday mid-morning turning so violent.

More on ‘routine traffic stop’:

At 10.28am on Friday morning, two officers responded to an alert involving a vehicle of interest in Massey. It is unclear what the alert was, or why it was a vehicle of interest.

Putting on their lights and sirens, the two officers attempted to pull the car over, but soon lost sight of it.

The car, fleeing police, hit and injured a member of the public before coming to a crashing halt on Reynella Drive about 10.30am.

A man got out of the car, armed with a long-barrelled firearm and fired multiple shots at the officers – striking them both. The officers were unarmed.

It’s understood the officer who died was shot in the abdomen. The second officer was shot in the leg and taken to Auckland City Hospital in a serious condition, where he is now in a stable condition.

After opening fire, the shooter got into another vehicle and fled the scene with a second person.

The Armed Offenders Squad was called in, cordoning off the suburban streets, and a manhunt was instigated.

Stuff: Officer killed identified by police

Police have released the name of the officer killed on duty on Friday.

He was Constable Matthew Dennis Hunt, aged 28 of Auckland.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a statement Hunt’s family gave their blessing to release his name.

Hunt, who grew up on the Hibiscus Coast, joined the New Zealand Police in October 2017 as a member of Wing 312. His family said it was his “lifelong dream” to become a police officer.

Hunt was the 33rd to have been killed in New Zealand in the line of duty since 1890, and the first since 2009.

New Police Commissioner rules out Armed Response Teams

The Police trial using Armed response Teams was controversial.  The new Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has announced ARTs “will not be part of the New Zealand policing model in the future”.

NZ Herald (4 March 2020) – Police’s new Armed Response Teams deployed 75 a day

The new Armed Response Teams have been called out at 50 times the rate that Armed Offenders Squads were last year.

The teams were deployed 75 times a day in the first five weeks of a six-month trial that started late October, data released under the Official Information Act shows.

Police say the trial is going “really well”, the public is getting “good value”, and the teams have not fired a gun once.

“It sounds very much, given that volume, that they’re involved in day-to-day policing,” private investigator and former police officer Tim McKinnel said.

“I think a large number of them are going to be routine traffic stops… but we were told by the Commissioner [Mike Bush] when he launched them that they were to focus on high-risk armed situations, high profile public events.”

Even police admit the teams – which carry a pistol and have a Bushmaster rifle in the car – are dealing with some low-level crimes they come across.

Victoria University Professor of Criminology Simon Mackenzie said having roving officers with guns day-to-day, for no specific reason, would meet many people’s definition of routine arming.

Mackenzie said for police to say they were opposed to routine arming but then routinely arm some patrolling officers was “Trumpian newspeak”.

“So, of course, they’re going to be asked to respond to other calls and engage with any emerging events that happen nearby. The problem is that then brings police with guns into normal day-to-day business, policing in the community.

“That is not a good development, that is not what the trial is supposed to be about, as far as I understand it.”

RNZ (24 April 2020): Police Armed Response Teams trial to end on Sunday

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a statement that the trial, which ends on Sunday, was about having specialist police personnel immediately ready to deploy to critical or high-risk incidents.

He said police know some communities have had concerns about the teams and how they were being deployed.

The Evidence-Based Policing Centre will undertake an evaluation expected to be complete in June, which will take into account data collected during the trial, public feedback and the views of the teams involved.

“An evaluation will only be one aspect of the review into ARTs. We will also consult with community groups and talk to our people and the teams involved with the ARTs,” Coster said.

Figures previously obtained by RNZ under the Official Information Act show armed response teams were deployed 2641 times between the 28 October and the 2 December in Counties Manukau, Waikato, and Canterbury districts.

This meant armed police have been attending more jobs in an average week than the Armed Offenders Squads were sent to in an entire year.

Last month, Māori justice advocates sought an urgent Tribunal hearing on the police armed response teams and called for them to be stopped immediately.

The application from the claimants, Sir Kim Workman and Julia Whaipooti, said the Crown had breached Te Tiriti o Waitangi by failing to work in partnership with, consult, or even inform Māori about the trial.

survey on New Zealand police’s armed response teams has found 85 percent of participants do not support the trial.

Justice reform advocate Laura O’Connell Rapira said 91 percent of people surveyed were less likely to call the police in family violence situations if they knew the police had guns.

NZ Herald (29 May 2020) – Armed Response Teams trial: Police warned not consulting Māori could have ‘severe’ consequence

New Zealand Police were warned before and during their controversial Armed Response Teams (ART) trial about the “severe” consequences of not having consulted with Māori.

The revelations are contained in a trove of documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act, which also provide warnings the trial would likely not produce enough evidence to be adequately evaluated.

Reports from early stages of the trial also show the armed officers were routinely attending low-level incidents including routine traffic stops, and police recording of data was “exceedingly poor”.

The trials, which ended in April, took place in Canterbury, Waikato and Counties Manukau – areas cited to have the highest rates of firearms incidents.

Almost immediately after the trial was announced publicly on October 18, there were outcries about a lack of community consultation, particularly from Māori, who are nearly eight times more likely than Pākehā to be on the receiving end of police force.

RNZ (5 June 2020) – Armed Response Teams trial: ‘Bizarre’ holes in callout data

Police in the Armed Response Teams failed to record their callouts properly on almost every occasion during the trial’s first two months.

Officers were expected to record and submit data on every single call-out. In the first two months, data from five out of every six callouts was missing.

Police did not provide the total rate of responses for the remainder of the trial when asked by RNZ. Instead a spokesperson said the evaluation of the trial would “only be one of the factors taken into consideration as part of our decision making”.

Documents to police, authored by the Evidence Based Policing Centre (EBPC), state that records from the End of Deployment (EOD) forms should be filled out after “each operation or call for service” and would be “essential” to understanding how the patrols had been used.

Two months into the trial, just 17 percent of forms were completed.

“There is still a level of underreporting that, while not posing an immediate problem, means that a complete picture is not available. As a fraction of the number of incidents ARTs have been deployed to, the number of EOD forms received by the EBPC is still quite low (17%),” an EBPC document from January this year said.

A report from December stated: “These discrepancies likely reflect a general under-reporting of deployment activity and selective reporting practices across each district.”

NZ Police today (9 June 2020):

Armed Response Teams will not continue

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has today announced that Armed Response Teams (ARTs) will not be part of the New Zealand policing model in the future.

The decision not to roll-out ARTs following the six-month trial (which finished in April) has been made based on preliminary findings from the trial evaluation, feedback received from the public, and consultation with community forum groups.

“Everything we do, we do to keep New Zealanders safe and feeling safe,” says Commissioner Coster.

“New Zealand Police values our relationships with the different communities we serve, and delivers on the commitments we make to them. This means listening and responding to our communities and partnering with them to find solutions that work for both Police and our communities. I have previously said that the evaluation would only be one factor in our decision making.

“It is clear to me that these response teams do not align with the style of policing that New Zealanders expect. We have listened carefully to that feedback and I have made the decision these teams will not be a part of our policing model in the future. As part of this, I want to reiterate that I am committed to New Zealand Police remaining a generally unarmed Police service.

“How the public feels is important – we police with the consent of the public, and that is a privilege.

“For Police, the trial was about having specialist police personnel immediately ready to deploy to critical or high risk incidents, to support our frontline staff where they needed enhanced tactical capabilities.

“We can only keep New Zealanders safe if we can keep our staff safe too. That is why Police has invested in the new body armour system, we have strengthened training, and given our officers more tools and tactical options.

“Having listened to feedback from our people through the trial, we are also undertaking a programme of work looking at our broad tactical capability to ensure our critical response options remain fit for purpose. Through this work we will continue to ensure our staff are well equipped and trained to meet all eventualities.

“We will still complete the evaluation into ARTs and that will now inform the wider tactical capability work programme.

“Any options that come out of that will be consulted with our communities to ensure we take a collaborative approach to policing in our communities.”

US Attorney General: Divide Between African Americans, Police ‘Must Change’

A shift to attempting to address the unrest in the US precipitated by the killing of George Floyd, and acknowledging problems with the US police forces and black Americans in particular.

RCP – Barr: Divide Between African Americans, Police ‘Must Change’

Attorney General William Barr sought on Thursday to quell tensions over the death of George Floyd in police custody, acknowledging a divide between many black Americans and the police and promising to spare no resource as the Justice Department investigates whether a federal civil rights crime was committed.

“While the vast majority of police officers do their job bravely and righteously, it is undeniable that many African Americans lack confidence in our American criminal justice system,” Barr said at a news conference. “This must change. Our constitution mandates equal protection of the laws and nothing less is acceptable.”

Barr’s comments appeared to contrast with prior statements he’s made condemning protests against the police and what he’s described as a “disturbing pattern of cynicism and disrespect shown toward law enforcement.” But he insisted Thursday that his views have been consistent and that the overwhelming majority of police officers “try conscientiously to use appropriate and reasonable force.”

“I believe that police chiefs and law enforcement officials and leaders around the country are committed to ensuring that racism plays no part in law enforcement, and that everyone receives equal protection of the laws,” Barr said.

I don’t think it is anywhere near a universal commitment.

Most of the protesters have been peaceful and tried to discourage violence.

The most attention is given to the worst examples and excesses, that’s just how media coverage works and there’s no easy solution to that – they would be condemned for not showing the worst. Media have also shown examples of cooperation and empathy between police and protesters.

Trump, Barr and others lay some of the blame for the unrest on left-wing extremist groups, including antifa, and other “anarchists.” Short for anti-fascists, antifa is an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations. He also said “foreign actors” appeared to be trying to “play all sides” to further incite violence in the U.S.

“We have seen evidence that antifa and other similar extremist groups as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions have been involving in instigating and participating in violent activity,” Barr said.

A senior Justice Department official said there have been “multiple instances” where people who have been arrested at demonstrations around the U.S. have identified themselves to law enforcement as members of antifa, the official said.

Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government had been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities described as a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.

Anarchists and extremists and those who like to incite and cause trouble will inevitably try to take advantage of protests and unrest.

Trump has claimed he has done more for black America since Abraham Lincoln, but that is just typical self-inflating nonsense.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany earlier had sidestepped questions about whether Trump believes there’s a systemic bias in American law enforcement against African Americans.

But pressed about whether Trump believes there is a larger problem of racial bias in law enforcement, McEnany only acknowledged that Trump “believes there are some examples of injustices.”

Trump has performed poorly over the Floyd death and Black Lives matters protests. RCP polling averages show he has not just reversed gains in approval he got over Covid but has quickly lost support over the last two weeks.

.More trying to divert blame to others. I don’t know how he thinks he will “bring in a different group” in a democracy.


Business Insider: Trump suggests George Floyd is ‘looking down’ from heaven and appreciating the ‘great day in terms of equality’ after an unexpectedly strong jobs report was announced

In a freewheeling Friday-morning press conference in the Rose Garden, President Donald Trump touted a strong May jobs report and said he hoped George Floyd, who was killed by the Minneapolis police 10 days ago, was “looking down” from heaven and saying this “is a great thing that’s happening for our country.”

The economy added 2.5 million jobs in May, bringing the unemployment rate down to 13.3% from 14.7% in April.

That’s a surprising turnaround, but the economy has a lot to weather yet.

“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. It’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. It is a great, great day in terms of equality,” Trump said.

It is premature to be claiming economic victory after Covid – 25,000 new cases in the US so far today and another thousand deaths.

I don’t think that if George Floyd could see what has happened since his death he would see anything great happening.

A major problem in the US (apart from Trump) is that there are many different police forces managed and employed by various cities and states, with top police officials elected. It will be very difficult to improve police behaviour across the country.

Greens want to limit use of armed patrols by Police

Green MPs and the Green Party were quick to pivot from support of the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests in the US to use of firearms by police in New Zealand.

They have refined this to a campaign against the use of armed police patrols, which has more success than some calls for de-arming the police.

Green Party NZ @NZGreens

We have written to Police Commissioner Andrew Coster asking him to rule out armed police patrols in NZ following a recent trial in South Auckland.




Stress of Covid quarantine leads to arrest

From Gezza:

It appears that quarantine requirements are very strict, the conditions of those under enforced quarantine more rudimentary than generally realised, & that the services & help available to those effectively sentenced to temporary detention in designated quarantine hotels are causing significant mental health problems for some detainees.

Also, that the police response to those driven by panic or mental distress to escape to outside may sometimes be over the top & harsh. The court’s response to this case could be instructive – although it’s entirely possible that we, the public, will hear little or nothing about it, cos suppression orders.

… … … …
A man has been arrested after trying to escape an Auckland hotel minutes after a fire alarm was triggered.

A witness to the event said the man was distressed and “tried to escape” when he was detained by six police officers.

Police confirmed the man’s arrest and said it was in connection to a “mental health incident”.

The arrest comes on the back of a series of incidents reported by Kiwis in quarantine or managed isolation, some who say the strict restrictions have adversely affected their mental health.

Recently, a 24-hour ban on walking was enforced at some hotels to allow authorities to figure out a way to keep guests, and the public, safe.

The ban came under the scrutiny of the Human Rights Commission who said people who were legally required to stay in quarantine should have access to necessities.

In April, a woman was found in a distressed state in the Novotel Hotel car park by security officers. The woman, who was in her thirteenth day of managed isolation, was issued her with a warning from police.

It bothers me that this sort of thing doesn’t bode well for the police’s relations with the public. For the first time in my life, when I see them cruising through Tawa, I find myself now watching them automatically with some suspicion.

I have to actually do an intellectual override of that negative gut reaction, because these public protectors might not all be perfect, but they see some bloody awful things, have to deal with some difficult, even dangerous people, have often got a really shit job to do that none of us would take on, & I respect them for that.

Police managed the firearms buy back scheme well – Auditor-General

The Auditor-General has investigated the firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme that was put in place following the deaths of 51 people at the Christchurch mosque shootings, and says that the Police managed the scheme well, but advised that “more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.”

The Minister of police summarised the findings of the report in Gun buyback well run, ongoing work needed

  • The buyback scheme was complex, challenging, and high risk, and Police managed it effectively,
  • 61,332 prohibited firearms were collected, destroyed, or modified, as at February 2020. Every single one of them was tightly traced and accounted for during the process.
  • Compensation of $102 million was paid and the final cost is forecast to be $120 million. Police took a principled and informed approach to compensation prices,
  • Police communicated well with the public, and treated gun owners with empathy and respect. There was a wide range of opportunities for people to hand in guns,
  • No one could be certain how many prohibited firearms existed before the law change. Police estimates, scrutinised by NZIER, suggested it could range from 55,000 to 240,000 firearms. NZIER advised part of the uncertainty was because guns could be easily modified with certain parts to make them a prohibited firearm,
  • There were deficiencies in how information was recorded in the past for military style semi-automatics, or E-category firearms. However Police were successful in locating them and are actively following up outstanding items,
  • The buyback scheme was supported by good systems and processes, with a robust level of oversight,
  • It cost more to administer the scheme than first anticipated. The initial estimate of $18 million grew to $35 million which Police met from internal budgets. The OAG found financial controls were appropriate and there was no wasteful spending,
  • More work is needed to process some applications. The OAG Report lists the number of outstanding applications as at February 2020, but the figures are now lower. Police are expected to keep publicly reporting on this till it is complete,
  • The scheme is important for the well-being of New Zealanders and Police should carry out a formal evaluation to look at compliance with firearms laws and improvements to public safety over time.

From the OAG report:

As part of the response to the attacks, Parliament passed the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019 on 11 April 2019. The Act prohibited firearms with the ability to cause harm in a rapid and highly destructive way from a distance.

The Act, supplemented by a set of associated statutory regulations, included a provision for a firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme (the scheme). The scheme allowed owners of newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts to hand them in to the New Zealand Police (the Police) in exchange for compensation. The purpose of the scheme was to improve public safety. We examined how effectively and efficiently the Police implemented the scheme.

We thought it important to provide the Police with real-time feedback so that they could make any improvements the scheme needed quickly. The Police were open to receiving and acting on Ernst & Young’s feedback and recommendations. I commend the Police for the open approach they took to this assurance work.

We make no comment on the policy decision to have a buy-back scheme because commenting on policy decisions is outside of my statutory mandate.

The Police managed the scheme effectively

Implementing the scheme was a complex, challenging, and high-risk task, and the Police had to do it in tight time frames.

The Police communicated with the public well

We found that the Police, assessors, and support staff treated people handing in firearms with empathy and respect. Firearms assessors were trained extensively to make fair decisions on compensating people for their firearms.

The scheme was supported by good systems and processes

The Police used a software system to register and track handed-in firearms and process compensation payments. This system was well designed and thoroughly tested before it went live. Although it mostly worked well, some internet connectivity issues caused delays at some local collection events.

Compensation payments did not exceed what was appropriated, and ACC’s contribution was compatible with its statutory functions

The 2019 Budget included an appropriation of $150 million in Vote Police to fund compensation payments for people handing in their prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts. The Police’s provisional information at 20 December 2019 shows that compensation payments to that date totalled $102 million.

Administering the scheme cost considerably more than estimated

In March 2019, the Police produced an initial estimate that administering the scheme would cost $18 million.

he Police now estimate that, once fully completed, administering the scheme will have cost up to $35 million. This includes costs of tracked staff time, contractors, and goods and services.

The Police need to finish implementing the scheme and make improvements to support their regulatory responsibilities

The Police still have much work to do to complete the scheme.

The process of implementing the scheme is ongoing and has proved more challenging than the Police anticipated. Some firearms still need modifications to comply with the new regulatory requirements, and the Police are still processing applications for endorsements to use newly prohibited firearms for a limited range of purposes. In my view, the Police should continue to report publicly on the performance of the scheme until they have completed this remaining work. The Police should also report to Parliament about the final outcomes of the scheme.

Importantly, the scheme is only one component of firearms regulation the Police have to implement. The Government introduced a Bill on 13 September 2019 that includes a wide range of controls on the use and possession of firearms. Parliament was considering this Bill at the time we were writing this report.

Concluding thoughts

The Police managed the scheme well. They were effective in providing people with a wide range of opportunities to hand in firearms and receive compensation, which was paid in a timely manner. The public was kept safe at local collection events, and the Police made considerable efforts to treat people with empathy and respect. However, there is still much work to be done, and the Police should continue to focus on completing the scheme.

We do not yet know how effective the scheme was in removing all newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts from the community. This is because there is no reliable picture of how many newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts remain in the community. Without this picture, I cannot determine whether implementing the scheme has delivered value for money.

In my view, given the high level of public interest and expenditure, and the importance of this scheme for the well-being of all New Zealanders, more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.

Read the whole report (52 pages)


Despite fine, reparation and sentence police restrain all company’s assets for ‘proceeds of crime’ over a Health and Safety offence

A workplace accident and employee death in 2015 resulted in a costing a company nearly $400,000 in fines and reparations, and the company owner, who accepted responsibility, being  sentenced to four and a half months home detention in 2017.

But that wasn’t the end of the matter. Two years later, late in 2019, police restrained all of the company owner’s assets under the proceeds of crime legislation.

… it was in relation to the same health and safety prosecution in which Ron and Salters Cartage had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.  Having already secured a criminal conviction, the police had decided to take the extraordinary step of pursuing a business owner through the civil courts for the alleged “proceeds” of a health and safety offence.

It looks like a fairly ordinary Kiwi family bloke and business owner could lose everything he had built up over 38 years.

This is an extraordinary story, and quite alarming, unless there is something else to this story not yet revealed by the police.

The police want to take every dollar Ron Salter has ever made

A South Auckland businessman is under siege by police who are using laws designed to target gangs and drug dealers to come after his family business, his home, and even his children’s assets. At a time when we’ve handed police extraordinary powers to deal with a health pandemic, Matt Blomfield argues that trust is being betrayed.

Over the last five years I have carved out a role for myself as a person you turn to when things go bad. And when I say bad I have seen some pretty spectacular f*ck ups. When you are in the business of fixing life’s little mistakes, you find that your work comes from all walks of life and try as I might I like to think I don’t discriminate when it comes to my clients.

During that time, I have worked for some amazing people and also some infamous individuals. Often the balance between what is morally correct and my own personal view that everyone deserves help is something I struggle with.

When I discuss it with friends and family, I often reference the obligations that lawyers have when representing a client. Everyone has a right to justice and should have an opportunity to have their side of the story heard.

The slight difference is that I like to  think that my role includes an added bonus in that I can attempt to get things back on track and show my clients that life is just that little bit simpler if you play by the rules and remove some of the complication that comes with pushing boundaries.

In saying that sometimes I have clients where a clear cut injustice has occurred, and there is zero moral ambiguity. Where bad luck has combined with an extraordinary set of circumstances to result in an unjust outcome. These are the ones I enjoy the most.

So with the blessing of my client I would like to ask you to listen to a story not about Covid-19, but about an unfortunate sequence of events which has left my client fighting for their very survival.

In late 2015 I was introduced to Ron Salter who is the owner and founder of Salters Cartage, a South Auckland waste collection and recycling company.

A few months earlier, on September 15, 2015, Jamey Lee Bowring, an employee of a contractor to Salters Cartage, called Raceworks, working at the Salters Cartage business, was killed after the 100,000-litre fuel tank he was welding exploded.

It was a tragedy, a young man losing his life at just 24 years old. There were no winners in this story. I recall thinking about Jamie’s mother and how she would have reacted when she got the news. I have two daughters and in my mind I’m not sure if I could think of a worse situation than me outliving one of them.

Like all of the cases I work on, the first thing I try to do is understand the client. What am I dealing with and what is really going on here?

Ron Salter is by trade a truck driver, who over several decades built up a very successful business. He is a hard man and initially that was all I saw. It wasn’t until I had spent a couple of months working with Ron that I actually found out who he is.

Ron is first and foremost a family man, and Salters Cartage is a family business.  The kind of business that is the backbone of New Zealand’s economy.

The more time I spent with the Salter family the more I came to understand that this was the quintessential Kiwi family running their own business and Ron was that hard arse dad who secretly was a big softy and loved his family unconditionally.

Just prior to lockdown I noticed a picture of Ron on his daughter’s Facebook page. He was in the swimming pool with his granddaughter. His daughter commented: “As a kid growing up I don’t remember my dad getting in the pool/water but little miss says “pop pop come in water” and he’s in”.

That side of Ron is why, at the earliest opportunity, he said sorry for the accident and accepted he made a mistake. This was something Ron insisted on.

Just over two years on from Jamie’s death, on November 23, 2017, Ron was sentenced to four and a half months’ home detention and he and his company were ordered to pay nearly $400,000 in fines and reparations, which they did.

The same day a story was published in the New Zealand Herald entitled “Auckland business owner sentenced for fuel tank explosion which killed worker”. The story includes a video interview of Ron which captures the man I know and the hurt that he and his family went through.

That’s not to say what happened to the Salter family could ever compete with losing a child. Jamie’s mother Sarah Ferguson has said she does not accept Ron’s remorse and I don’t think I could if I was her.

My role with Salters Cartage finished up in early 2018. It was an interesting project, it touched on so many aspects of life, a mother losing a child, a business owner dealing with the guilt and responsibility for the part they played, the all-encompassing litigation process, something that I understand all too well, the toll that can take on individuals, and the support of wider friends and family unit that rallied around during this awful time. There were no winners in this story, but it was finally over. Justice was done.

Moving forward, I would check in with Ron and the family on occasion. They had a job to get on with and didn’t need my help. They were rebuilding their lives and getting their Salters Cartage family back on track. I heard through a mutual acquaintance that Ron was looking at selling the business and retiring and I recall thinking that it was not surprising. Ron had done it hard over the past few years.

Then in December last year I heard that the police had restrained all of Ron’s assets under the proceeds of crime legislation.

At the time I had limited knowledge of proceeds of crime laws and my immediate reaction was ‘what have I missed’? My mind conjured up images of drug dealing and gangs. It just made no sense.

After further clarification I realised that it was in relation to the same health and safety prosecution in which Ron and Salters Cartage had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.  Having already secured a criminal conviction, the police had decided to take the extraordinary step of pursuing a business owner through the civil courts for the alleged “proceeds” of a health and safety offence.

I called Ron and he explained in a slightly panicked fashion, “they are wanting to take my house, my daughter’s house, the bach, the business, everything”. His life’s work and his legacy. I was lost for words. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

I recall thinking about double jeopardy – the principle that a person should not be subject to two prosecutions or punishments for the same offence. And then wondering whether a claim to forfeit assets constitutes a second punishment or a severely harsh punishment when viewed together with the original sentence.

It was a major, the Salter family stood to lose a lifetime of effort. This was not just Ron’s business, it’s the Salter family business which includes the families of their 30 employees, who are essentially an extension of the family.

Police have sought restraints over more than $8 million of the Salters’ personal assets as well as business assets over and above this.  An application to forfeit those same assets will inevitably follow.

To be clear, this legislation was brought in to go after drug dealers, gang members, money launderers and other sophisticated criminal enterprises that break the law for commercial gain. It operates on a simple philosophy: the police say ‘we think you’ve obtained this by nefarious means, prove us wrong’.

The reach of the legislation extends to anything that the police believe is “tainted”. The example I use is if a drug dealer owns a house and pays for a new roof with drug money, the police can take the house. The police can also take untainted assets to the value of the benefit they say you have received as a result of criminal activity.  It’s hard for me to draw a parallel between a gang member selling methamphetamine and Salters Cartage collecting and recycling waste oil.   As bizarre as it sounds, the police are saying the income that Salters Cartage received is like drug money. If it is, so too is the income of the hundreds of businesses convicted of health and safety offences in New Zealand every year, let alone other regulatory offences.  What’s next – resource management breaches?

In the five years to July 2014, police restrained nearly half a billion dollars worth of cash, property, cars, boats, motorcycles with gold-plate rims and every other trapping of a drug dealer’s lifestyle you can imagine. Police estimated half of that came from methamphetamine.

The recovered money goes into a contestable fund that has provided millions to drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, mental health services and crime reduction initiatives. Proper Robin Hood stuff.

However, in the Salters Cartage case the police are using the proceeds of crime legislation for the first time in the aftermath of a health and safety case.

In an exit interview with the Herald just a few weeks ago, the former commissioner of police Mike Bush summed up one of the key tenets of his six year tenure as follows: “How we apply our discretion is critical to building trust and confidence.”

“The one thing people look for is the consistent application. And that’s what we’ve been driving hard.”

If that’s the case, why didn’t the police attempt to seize Watercare’s assets, after the 2011 explosion that killed one of its workers and left another a double amputee? Or Canadian Piping, the firm convicted of failing to protect employees in the same blast. Should the directors of Watercare have feared that their family homes were at risk?

There have been around 700 workplace deaths in New Zealand since 2011, and more than two dozen firms have been prosecuted for breaching the health and safety legislation where death occurred.

Where is the consistent application of the law that Bush is so proud of?

It is no secret that New Zealand’s small to medium enterprises are the backbone of this country. Right now, as we emerge from Level 4 lockdown, they are at once under unprecedented strain while being needed more than ever to jumpstart our post-COVID 19 economy.

According to one Government estimate, they make up 97 per cent of all New Zealand businesses, employ more than 630,000 people or 29 per cent of all New Zealand workers.

It’s tough enough running your own business, as a business owner you take responsibility for the livelihoods of all of your staff, you take responsibility for the risks that come with owning your business from loans to compliance to tax.

If it goes badly you can’t just walk away. These business owners are brave and they should be respected, they should be looked after, and they should be supported.  Without them, the economic landscape in New Zealand would be very different.

We spend plenty of time making sure that employees are looked after and that they have the support of their employers.  And rightly so.  But less time is spent thinking about the brave directors that take on the responsibilities and risks that create employment. I can imagine that many will say that with risk comes reward and I accept that but, in this case, we are talking about a family that could lose everything they have earned in the past 38 years.  There are many, many other businesses out there just like Salters Cartage.

This will have an effect on three generations of this family. Putting aside the inevitable closure of Salters Cartage as we know it if the police are successful, we are talking about Ron and his wife Natalie’s daughter’s home, the family bach, the home in which Ron and Natalie planned to live out their retirement, and finally the livelihoods of all of the staff and their families.

So, most of my lockdown was spent trying to find a way through for the Salter family. That now includes dealing with Covid-19 and the fact they have all but closed the doors over the lockdown.  They have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars but, unlike many other businesses, all of their staff still have their jobs.

The Salter family is doing it hard.  Ron and his family accepted responsibility for what happened;  Ron and Salters Cartage performed the sentence imposed.  In addition to funding this litigation, which will could take years to resolve, now they have the added complication of Covid-19.  In my mind it’s just not fair. I really wish the police would use their resources, budget and energy to take down gangs and drug dealers because isn’t that what the proceeds of crime legislation was intended for? I can’t rationalise in my mind why the police have put the Salters family, and family businesses just like theirs, at the top of their to-do list, while many who have clearly profited from crime flaunt their wealth on Instagram. It just does not make sense!

Salters Cartage is truly a family owned and operated New Zealand business. It is an example of what makes New Zealand great and what we need to focus on to get through this Covid-19 debacle. I am confident that the police will be unsuccessful in their case but my hope is that the fight doesn’t destroy this amazing family and the New Zealand-owned family business that was almost 40 years in the making. That’s not justice and not what New Zealand wants or deserves from the New Zealand police.

Matt Blomfield is a business consultant and the subject of Whale Oil, a book about standing up to bullies and his quest for justice. It was nominated in the best general non-fiction category at the 2020 Ockham Awards.