3 Apr 2016

Second councillor joins Auckland safety calls

7:09 am on 3 April 2016

A second Auckland councillor has come forward to support claims that the city is not safe and that its police are under-resourced.

Hundreds attended a meeting at the University of Auckland on 1 April 2016 prompted by recent violent attacks on international students.

Hundreds attended a meeting at the University of Auckland on Friday to discuss recent violent attacks on international students. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The initial comments were made on Friday night at a meeting attended by hundreds of people, which was organised in response to several violent attacks on foreign students.

Labour MP Phil Goff, who is also vying to be Auckland mayor, told the meeting - organised by Chinese students - that police in the city were not getting any extra resources.

Auckland councillor Mike Lee told the same audience that Auckland was not safe and that the police needed to clean up what he called gangs of violent offenders "once and for all".

Mr Lee said he had lodged a formal complaint with the mayor about violence in the city.

Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye yesterday dismissed Mr Goff's claims, saying Auckland had more police officers than ever before and Mr Goff's comments were disappointing.

But a second Auckland councillor, George Wood, told RNZ News he agreed Auckland was not safe and there was "a general consensus" there were not enough police on the beat.

"There are problems on the streets of Auckland that seem to continually flare up, especially in the night hours where people don't feel that they are safe," he said.

The police themselves maintain that Auckland for the most part is a safe and vibrant city, let down by opportunist criminals they say are common in all major international centres.

Joe Tipene speaking at a meeting at the University of Auckland on 1 April 2016 prompted by recent violent attacks on international students.

Inspector Joe Tipene, from the police's Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services (MPES), spoke at the meeting on Friday. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

But Mr Wood, who is also a former police officer, said Auckland simply did not have enough staff and policing in the central city was not as robust as it should be.

"I think quite frankly it's time for some objective discussion to happen between Auckland Council, the police and the government.

"Everybody knows the police budgets have been put on hold or capped, and I think the police as an organisation is under the pump as far as resourcing is concerned.

"I'm not aware of any appreciable increases in resources as far as sworn officer numbers in the Auckland city centre in recent years," he said.

Mr Wood said it was rare to see police officers in downtown Auckland walking the streets, which he believed should be happening in a modern and international city.

"Until we start seeing a rollout of more sworn officers, especially on the front line - well, things aren't going to change too much," Mr Wood said.

More complex than just police numbers

Ms Kaye said lighting was a definite issue that needed looking into, and that she was preparing to meet with various groups about getting better lighting and CCTV camera coverage.

However, she said there were a lot more frontline police officers than in the past.

"I know that we've got more police in Auckland than ever before and I think it's unfortunate that Mr Goff has made those comments.

"If he just looks at the numbers, we're in a much better position, I think, in the last seven years that I've been MP overall for Auckland. We've got a more sophisticated way of resourcing police."

Curbing violent attacks was a more complex issue than singling out policing numbers, Ms Kaye.

"I don't think it's the general case that there are major resourcing issues - I think this is more about where we put resources, and also things like lighting and things like cameras can be massive deterrents."

China's Consulate-General in Auckland has said the attacks on international students were upsetting and that it wants a solution found.

Auckland councillor Mike Lee at a meeting on 1 April 2016 organised in response to several violent attacks on foreign students in Auckland.

Auckland councillor Mike Lee was among those at Friday's meeting in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker WIlson

Phil Goff was among those to attend a meeting at the University of Auckland on 1 April 2016 after a series of violent attacks on international students.

Auckland mayoral candidate and Labour MP Phil Goff also attended. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

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