When Arrowtown octogenarian Les Rogerson was honoured for his volunteer work in 2013, he quipped the community police station was a good gig because “you can go down there and have a sleep”.
There was not much crime in the historic gold-mining village, he said.
But the “temporary” closure of the small station since April, because of health and safety concerns, has left many disappointed.
Volunteer administrator Bob Farrell says, joking aside, it was a valued community resource
which helped prevent crime, and also helped tourists who misplaced valuables.
It has been manned for 22 years by volunteers, weekdays from 10am to 4pm.
Farrell says: “We’re not even allowed in there and no-one knows it’s there any more. Someone’s stolen the road sign.
“Everyone’s keen to get back to work but the big danger is volunteers will eventually lose interest.”
Arrowtown is one of 23 police kiosks and stations temporarily closed after an attack on an Auckland police volunteer.
Farrell says security fear was the reason cited by Queenstown’s Inspector Olaf Jensen in April.
Volunteers are allowed in the station only with a uniformed officer.
Arrowtown once had a dedicated constable but community constable Zoe Albon divides her time between several communities and other duties.
Farrell: “She’s here for two hours twice a week but those hours are subject to change, so we can’t roster volunteers.”
That means the four-room station is effectively closed, despite a pool of 20 volunteers.
“Unless the police can make it tenable without [the risk] of someone leaping over the counter and shooting it up, it’s not going to change,” Farrell says.
He’s seen the plans to upgrade the station but says he would be “amazed” if it happens within 10 years.
The police hierarchy is “intractable”, he says.
The museum is inundated with lost property from tourists, he says, and the only way to report crime is on a “difficult-to-use” phone line.
“The situation is unacceptable.
“I’ll say it guardedly but it doesn’t take long for the undesirables to note there is no constable here.”
A police spokeswoman says they have a “duty of care” to staff, volunteers and the public and are committed to ensuring their safety.
She confirms Arrowtown station has been temporarily closed other than by appointment or when a constabulary member is present.
Police “are doing all we can” to make 350 premises “as accessible as possible while being as safe as possible for our staff, volunteers and members of the public”.
Arrowtown councillor Scott Stevens is keen to talk to police.
“The community is very disappointed.
“We know there are difficulties due to health and safety and police staffing in general, but we want to have the conversation about it.
“We see a constable and the station as an important part of our community.”