Steve Cansdell listens to Police Association representative Tony King speak at the launch of the 24-hour policing petition.
Steve Cansdell listens to Police Association representative Tony King speak at the launch of the 24-hour policing petition.

MP talks tough on Yamba

THIS is an edited transcript of a Private Member’s statement delivered by Clarence MP Steve Cansdell in parliament on Tuesday.

YAMBA, one of the most beautiful areas of New South Wales and in my electorate, was rated last year as the number one town in Australia, but it is pretty rough to talk about that when local newspaper headlines proclaim ‘Police stoned by rowdy crowd at a party’ and ‘Violent break and enter and robbery attempt at Yamba Golf Club’ when an employee was viciously assaulted. Just recently, on 14 February, another major riot at Yamba saw a police car burnt and police fleeing the scene while rocks and bottles were thrown at them.

As I stated, it is pretty rough to inform the House about these events but, hopefully, the Minister for Police, the Honourable Michael Daley, is listening and will answer the calls and pleas of the community not only for more police, but also for more police stationed at Yamba and in the Lower Clarence region.

Currently, only two police cars on Friday and Saturday nights and one police car from Sunday to Thursday cover an area of nearly 5000 square kilometres—and in many communities it takes close to one hour and 10 minutes to drive from one side of the area to the other.

If there is a domestic incident or some issue at Brooms Head, it is 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half from Yamba or Iluka or even Maclean. Also, if an arrest is made, then the officers have to go back to the police station and process the whole incident, which takes them off the street for another hour. Another police car is needed. Twenty-four hour policing is desperately needed in this beautiful part of Australia and I ask the Minister to ensure that that happens.

The Government can talk about allocated numbers and required strength and so on, but across New South Wales the average police ratio to population is one police officer to 550 while in the Lower Clarence and Yamba it is one police officer to 1500 in normal times and in holiday times one police officer to 2200 population.

That situation creates a lot of stress for the police who are on duty and it is getting to the point where people in the community do not bother reporting crimes because they know that the police cannot get there. If the police can attend an incident it might be one or two hours later or even the next day or the next week if there is a change of shift at the time the incident takes place.

For a very small minority in the community it creates a complete disregard for law and order. That is why we have incidents such as the one that occurred a couple of weeks ago when a party got totally out of control.

Bricks and bottles were thrown at the police and the police car was torched. More police went to the scene but they had to vacate the area after concrete tiles and bottles were thrown at their car. The riot squad from Coffs Harbour came up two hours later to go into the factory where the party was being held and arrested 15 people. I hope to hell the book is thrown at the grubs that have caused this inconvenience and fear for our hardworking police officers.

We are told that the allocated police strength for the Coffs-Clarence Local Area Command is above the required strength, but currently it is running at 80 per cent of capacity because of sick leave and other leave taken by its officers.

The Clarence Valley area has 50,000 residents, but we have only 50 police officers. That is an average of one police officer to 1000 people. That is nowhere near acceptable for the people of the Clarence. The Minister for Police and the Commissioner of Police need to seriously look at the allocation of police with the upcoming release of 750-odd police and 250-odd detectives across the State.

We need to ensure that there is a minimum of six extra police at Yamba, which, as the police association representative Detective Tony King mentioned to me, is the minimum number of police required for the Lower Clarence. That would enable just one more police car to be in the area at night so that there would be two during the week and three on Friday and Saturday nights to cover such a huge area.

The police need our support and the community needs our support to bring back confidence in the police force. The police force needs to be there to regain the respect of this minority of youth who are causing a lot of these problems in the area. I hope to see the Minister this week and I implore him to seriously consider ensuring adequate police numbers for the lower Clarence and the Clarence Valley in general.

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