The emotion on the face of former Queanbeyan police sergeant Paul Batista said it all.
For 10 years, he had lobbied Member for Monaro John Barilaro for a new police station in the home town of both men. On Monday (26 April), Sgt Batista’s dream was realised when the $31 million, state-of-the-art policing facility was officially opened by Mr Barilaro in front of NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott and a host of local dignitaries.
Sgt Batista retired last year but was on hand in period uniform from when the town’s first police sergeant’s residence existed in the 1870s.
While Sgt Batista preferred to enjoy the occasion as an observer, he said it was a special moment, and he was very proud to see the new station officially opened.
Mr Barilaro said the new station is a credit to his persistence.
“Paul is someone who has been passionate and the NSW Police Force runs through his blood,” Mr Barilaro said. “We first talked in 2011 and he questioned whether we could actually follow through.
“Politicians are good at making commitments, so seeing Paul here today and seeing his emotion that this means so much to him is fantastic. I acknowledge Paul as the reason we are here today.”
The new police station was almost discarded as not being architecturally possible after it was discovered the foundations were sinking because of an underground river flowing beneath the station.
Stabilisation works were done, and the insistence on having the police station next to the Queanbeyan Court House became a key part of the project that was first announced during the 2015 NSW state election campaign at a cost of $17 million.
The Queanbeyan Police Station will be home to general duties, specialist, tactical, crime prevention and investigative units, including highway patrol, taskforce and region enforcement squad officers. It is also the 33rd station to be built or upgraded since 2011.
Indigenous elder Aunty Matilda House and her son Paul performed a Welcome to Country while also welcoming guests with a smoking ceremony outside the new station.
Monaro Police District Commander Superintendent John Klepczarek said the purpose-built station is now the envy of others in the state, and he will soon welcome local schools and community groups to tour the facility.
“This station is like having a new house,” Superintendent Klepczarek said. “Our officers don’t want to get things dirty, but it means they can now work smarter by having these purpose-built facilities.
“We see an influx of visitors to our region each year, and this new facility provides us with the resources we need to better service the entire region.”
The new station incorporates custody facilities, including charge docks and cells, and an audio-visual link to the court. Breath-analysis and drug-testing equipment and facilities have been upgraded along with briefing rooms.
Officers have been located in a temporary station at Morisset Street while waiting for the completion of the new station. Construction began in 2018 and the station has been fully operational since March.
It also features a legacy walk between the courthouse and station where members of the community can pay their respects to past and present members of the NSW Police Force.
NSW Commissioner Michael Fuller said the station would receive an increased number of police officers following the attestation of more than 1000 recruits in Goulburn last year. That number would be increased to more than 1250 this year to meet expected attrition levels and demand for additional police resources in regional areas.
“This is a major investment into the crime-fighting capabilities in the Monaro Police District,” Commissioner Fuller said.
“It gives police the support they need to drive down crime and keep the community safe.
“Our new police facility is something that this town can be proud to call its own – it will protect all, both the community and the officers that serve it,” he said.