PORT Stephens police command could merge with Manning-Great Lakes to the north under a “re-engineering” of NSW Police command structures that might also see major changes in the Upper Hunter.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington has written to NSW Police Minister Troy Grant after confirming the Port Stephens/Manning consolidation was being considered.
The possible coastal merger comes only days after Nationals Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen objected to a proposed Upper Hunter police command merger during a radio interview, only to be corrected by Mr Grant during a budget estimates hearing.
NSW Police Minister Troy Grant sought to hose down increasing concerns about a taskforce examining the “re-engineering” of the police local area command structure, saying it was “in no way about cutting officer numbers”.
“I’ve made it very clear there will be no reduction in frontline policing. The last major organisational changes to the force occurred two decades ago, and so it is timely,” Mr Grant said.
“This process is in its infancy, and communities across the state and local police will be consulted on any potential changes as the re-engineering continues. It is entirely false to suggest that police services will be diminished in any way as a result of the re-engineering.”
Ms Washington said a consolidated Port Stephens and Manning-Great Lakes command under a single superintendent could see the command centre shift north, which would not benefit the Port Stephens area.
“I’m advised it’s senior-level police they’re looking at, with the justification of putting more police on the ground by reducing numbers at the top,” Ms Washington said.
“My concern is I would imagine the National Party members up north would put a lot of pressure on to see the superintendent based at somewhere like Taree,” she said.
“Opposition MPs have been left in the dark about what discussions are being had about policing in our electorates, which is why I’ve written to Mr Grant seeking details of what is proposed.”
In a NSW Parliament budget estimates session last week Mr Grant was forced to answer questions about discussions he had with Mr Johnsen after the Upper Hunter MP objected in public to a proposed consolidation that would see Muswellbrook and Singleton merge with Maitland, and Scone merge with Tamworth.
Mr Grant said he tried to speak with Mr Johnsen about the issue but “he did not answer my call”.
“I eventually spoke to him the next morning and reassured him that no decisions had been made.”
Meanwhile, the Hunter Valley Branch of the Police Association of NSW formally acknowledges and welcomes the recent comments regarding police resourcing in the Hunter Valley made by Mr Johnsen, Muswellbrook Shire mayor Martin Rush and Upper Hunter mayor Wayne Bedggood.
“The branch hopes they continue to assist with the campaign for at least 10 more police in the Hunter Valley (LAC),” the spokesperson said.