Joint Emergency Service Centre inquiry

The Weston Creek Community Council would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity for our Chairperson, Mr Bob Sutherland, to address the committee on 7th September.Please find attached the WCCC submission for your consideration.

The Secretary

Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety

ACT Legislative Assembly

London Circuit

 

 

Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety

Joint Emergency Service Centre inquiry

Dear Sir

The Weston Creek Community Council would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity for our Chairperson, Mr Bob Sutherland, to address the committee on 7th September.

Please find attached the WCCC submission for your consideration.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Alan Henderson

Secretary

WCCC

10th September 1998.

 

 

SUBMISSION BY THE WESTON CREEK COMMUNITY COUNCIL

TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND COMMUNITY SAFETY

ON THE JOINT EMERGENCY SERVICES CENTRE ACCOMMODATION FEASIBILITY STUDY FOR BELCONNEN AND WODEN

1. The Weston Creek Community Council is pleased to be given the opportunity to the terms of reference of the Inquiry into the Joint Emergency Services Centre Accommodation Feasibility Study for Belconnen and Woden.

2. The Weston Creek Community Council is an organisation which is a non-party political voluntary group which seeks to ensure that ACT Government services are delivered to Weston Creek residents on an equitable basis.

3. The Community Council has received representations on the issues of police response times and police presence in our community. We have also discussed these issues at two public meetings. One of these attracted 110 participants including off-duty police officers. This meeting was also attended by the Attorney-General, Mr Gary Humphries, the Secretary of the Australian Federal Police Association, Mr Jason Byrnes and Mr Bill Stoll, Assistant Commissioner, Australian Federal Police. Other MLAs attending were Mr Rugendyke, Mr Corbell and Mr Quinlan.

  1. The remainder of this submission will respond to the terms of reference of the Inquiry.

a. the effectiveness of the consultation process used in developing the proposal

5. The Weston Creek Community Council was not a party to this consultation process and cannot comment on this matter.

b. the implications of the proposal for ACT police, fire and ambulance personnel, facilities and services

6. The Weston Creek Community Council is concerned with community issues and is not in a position to comment on matters from an emergency service point of view. We understand that emergency services staff have the appropriate organisations to make a submission on this issue.

c. the likely effects on the Woden/Weston communities if Woden Police Station is replaced with a shopfront

7. As the Weston Creek Community Council understands the position the ACT Government announcement was that it was considering replacing the present Woden Police Station with a station located within the Woden Plaza shopping centre. This proposal is known as the “shopfront” proposal but there is no comparison between this proposed station and the existing “shopfront” station in Garema Place. We understand that the Garema Place shopfront is very much a part-time facility which is only used when it is needed and when staff numbers permit. The proposed new Woden shopfront will provide a much better service than that although there are claims that it will still fall short of providing the full service provided now.

8. Most importantly it is also the Council’s understanding that there is no proposal to withdraw police services from Woden as has been inferred by some people.

9. From the community’s point of view the location of the current Woden Police Station is poor because it is not “user friendly”. It is difficult park near the station causing the public considerable inconvenience especially when they have to attend the station to report routine incidents such as minor traffic accidents. In addition “blue light” runs have to contend with traffic (including buses). A brick wall also separates the station from the Woden bus interchange preventing people from quickly getting police assistance should the need arise. The brick wall also acts as an encouragement for criminal behaviour and over the years the bus interchange has been a regular trouble spot.

10. There is considerable community support for a proposal to set up a new police station reasonably close to the Woden Town Centre. Two site suggestions made at the meetings were the old Parks and Gardens site and the old Phillip Testing Station – however, it is believed that these have already been sold. Other suggestions were to use a carpark site in Callam Street and to look at available land in the region of the Town Centre for example in Easty Street and Eddison Park.

11. Refurbishment of the present station is the option least favoured by the community.

12. Police and some members of the public expressed concern that there would be less police presence in the area if the shopping centre proposal was to proceed. It was argued that it would be difficult for police cars to operate from such a facility. It was acknowledged that the area to be used for the new Police Station would be less than the area occupied by the present station. However, Assistant Commissioner, Bill Stoll said that, after taking such things as the space occupied by stairwells and other space constraints within the present building the useable space was about the same.

13. Attendees at the meetings expressed clear concern over local trouble spots such as Burnie Court, Mawson flats, the Woden bus interchange, Stuart flats and Gowrie Court. They worried that the shopfront proposal might mean that police cars would have to be located at Tuggeranong leading to increases in response times in Woden and Weston Creek. Increases in response times could translate into increases in crime rates.

14. The responses to the meeting and the representations made to the Community Council indicate that the community feels that the size of the population justifies a 24-hour police station in Woden and Weston Creek.

d. the viability of police relying more on upgraded technology in police cars

15. At the July meeting of the Community Council (when over a hundred people attended) Mr Humphries said that the effects of the longer distances to travel from Tuggeranong to Woden and Weston Creek would be compensated by the increase in productivity gained from the introduction of new computer communication technology in police cars. We understand that this new technology involves the installation of laptop computers in police cars and the use of mobile telephone lines to enable police officers to consult main frame or PC computers in the police station directly from the car. This would reduce the present dependency on radio communication. Police officers would also be able to “download” their shift notes from the laptop to the PC at the end of each shift and this should reduce the amount of time needed to prepare reports. On the other hand it was pointed out that police officers on patrol in police cars would still have to report back to Tuggeranong at the end of every shift and for meal breaks and this would involve extra travelling. However, the new technology should increase productivity allowing more police to work on patrol instead of administration. We are not in a position to verify any of these claims and merely report that these issues have been raised with us.

e. the adequacy of space allocations in the new accommodation proposals

16. We are not in a position to comment on this aspect of the Inquiry.

f. the cost-effectiveness of the proposal (including asset management issues)

  1. After taking into account the representations we have received and the comments made at the two meetings we are of the view that it would be useful to examine the benefits and costs of
  1. renovating the current police station,
  2. leasing, commercial space in the Woden Plaza shopping centre and
  3. building a new station elsewhere.

This examination should also take into account community and police preferences.

g. the management of any implementation stage (including staff consultation)

18. As was suggested at the bigger meeting it would be useful to conduct a three month trial of the shopping centre staffing arrangements before actually deciding on whether they would be feasible or not. The Community Council understands that the shopping centre proposal means that some staff would have to be located at Tuggeranong and a smaller number at Gungahlin. This trial should bring to light any shortcomings in the proposal should they exist. Only with this information will it be possible to decide the best option.

19. The Community Council would also welcome further consultation especially after such a trial was conducted.

h. any related matter

20. At the August meeting of the Community Council when this matter was again discussed it was generally agreed that we should, as a long term aim, work towards having a patrol car located in Weston Creek on as close to a 24 hour basis as practicable.

21. Another matter of concern was the recent discovery that the ACT Government might not have been getting the police service it has paid for. This is a very serious matter and we expect the Government, Opposition and Independents to keep pursuing this matter.

  1. Thank you for the opportunity of being able to make a submission to your Inquiry.

 

Bob Sutherland

Chair

WCCC

10th September 1998

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