8 March 2023

Gungahlin community pleads for swifter action on police station woes

| Ian Bushnell
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Gungahlin Police Station

The Gungahlin Police Station is not fit-for-purpose, say police. Photo: File

A lack of police resources in Gungahlin and its ageing police station are again under fire with a new Legislative Assembly petition launched by the local community council.

It comes after senior police addressed the Gungahlin Community Council, calling the police station not fit for purpose and saying police numbers have not kept up with the area’s growing population.

“It’s old, it does not function and we share with three other agencies,” the station officer in charge, Detective Inspector Dave Craft, told a recent meeting.

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Detective Inspector Dave Craft said that on paper the Gungahlin station was meant to have 49 officers but that did not reflect reality, saying he had not seen that many members on his books since taking charge in May last year.

He said that Tuggeranong, which had a similar but ageing population, had a bigger, more fit-for-purpose station than Gungahlin, where the population was growing.

“We haven’t kept up,” he said, adding that his team was struggling under the restrictions of the ACT’s purchasing deal with the AFP, but even if he were given more officers, he would have nowhere to put them.

The petition calls for a new station big enough to accommodate more staff and provide privacy to victims of crime and alleged offenders, as well as meeting rooms, dining areas, and storage facilities.

It says the current shared services building also leaks during heavy rain and is not adequately heated or cooled in winter and summer.

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The petition also calls for more police across the ACT and for the government to commit to a timeline for increasing resources to meet the demands of the Gungahlin community, the fastest growing in the ACT with an estimated population of 87,550 according to the 2021 census, and as high as 100,000 after COVID.

Gungahlin Community Council President Henley Samuel said police were exhausted and exasperated, with an increase in sick leave and overworked officers not taking annual leave.

Mr Samuel said that despite the government saying in 2021 police would take over the Joint Emergency Services Centre it shares with SES and RFS, with these services moving to a new centre in Mitchell, nothing had yet happened.

There had also been no result from a feasibility study for a new station.

Mr Samuel said the police union, the AFP Association, had told the council in 2021 that the more than 20-year-old station was no longer fit for purpose.

“This time, the difference is the police came to us seeking some help,” he said.

“The police have had enough and they’ve done everything they can and need the community to support them.”

Mr Samuel said the station was sub-standard and could not house extra resources even if they could be secured.

“It’s like working in a garage,” he said.

Mr Samuel said the crime figures did not tell the whole story, suggesting that the limited resources were actually contributing to underreporting.

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Detective Inspector Craft said family and domestic violence led the offences police had to deal with in Gungahlin, followed by stolen vehicles, commercial burglaries, thefts and aggravated robberies and young repeat offenders, reflecting the area’s large youth population.

Mr Samuel said a further challenge for police was Gungahlin’s cultural diversity.

He acknowledged that police resourcing was an ACT-wide issue but said Gungahlin first needed facilities that could cater for any increase in numbers that may occur.

“It’s important not just for Gungahlin but for anyone in Canberra to sign this petition,” Mr Samuel said.

The latest Report on Government Services showed the ACT had the lowest number of sworn officers per 100,000 people in the nation and that the Territory also spent the least per capita on police services.

This prompted Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan to publicly call for more resourcing, saying the ACT was at a tipping point.

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A government spokesperson confirmed there was a long-term plan for ACT Policing to take possession of the current Gungahlin Joint Emergency Services Centre (JESC).

In the 2021-22 Budget, more than $8.2 million was allocated to improve accommodation for police and emergency services in Gungahlin.

“This program is on track to meet a commitment for ACTP to occupy the JESC in 2024,” the spokesperson said.

“Space in premises has already been vacated and minor works conducted to allow additional ACT Policing officers to be based at Gungahlin Police Station, with further works to occur this year.

“Once new buildings are constructed to house ACT Fire & Rescue and ACT Ambulance Service resources in Gungahlin, further internal works will be completed to allow ACT Policing to operate out of the entire building.”

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The spokesperson said the relocation and fit-out of a new site in Mitchell for the SES and RFS at a cost of $5.369 million was due for completion in June 2024.

Work to expand the police station area ($2.488 million) was due for completion in September 2024, while due diligence and concept design work to relocate fire and ambulance services ACT Ambulance Service and ACT Fire & Rescue in the Gungahlin region ($0.370 million) is due for completion in June 2024.

“The government is continuing to work with police on additional resources in response to population growth in the Territory,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not respond to questions about the feasibility study.

The petition for ‘A new police station and increased police resources for Gungahlin District’ can be found here.

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Gregg Heldon7:33 am 10 Mar 23

Underneath this story are two related stories about police numbers and facilities in Gungahlin. Both stories are from 2021.
Why does the ACT Government have such an anti police and anti public safety stance?
Why does the ACT Government not care about the standards of it employees buildings, that they are housed in? Certainly, the Winchester centre used to have similar woes of building standards. I don’t know if they have been fixed yet.
And why does it take so long to get anything done here in Canberra nowadays? Those related articles are from two years ago and nothing has been done. On a building! In certain countries they could have built a 6 lane elevated, 10km highway in the time. Or an equivalent distance rail line, with the stops and other infrastructure. And to a high standard.
The current government is too slow and too neglectful. And too disrespectful of its populace.

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