Confusion in the community has been sparked by a rumour that the NSW Government is proposing to close Karuah, Stroud and Tea Gardens police stations. A protest meeting was held on Tuesday, November 28.
Residents of Hawkes Nest, Tea Gardens and surrounding areas gathered outside the Tea Gardens Police Station to listen to an address by Member for Port Stephens, Kate Washington MP.
“There is deep concern in the community about the re-engineering of the police system,” Ms Washington said.
“I have had assurance from police members at a senior level that no existing infrastructure will be lost, but local police and community are concerned the reforms will cause issues for the satellite police stations.
“What we want is absolute clarity that those stations won’t close down. What is needed is more resources for those stations.”
Hawks Nest Tea Gardens Progress Association committee member, Trevor Jennings said that given the anticipated residential expansion of both Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest over the next decade, it is likely that the population would double, or even triple.
“A local police presence will certainly be required to handle any issues that develop with such a large expansion,” he said.
“Further, there are existing problems with some local youths, and burglaries appear to be on the increase.”
MidCoast Councillor Karen Hutchinson also attended the rally, seeking a straight answer one way or the other.
“Stroud, Tea Gardens, Karuah and Dungog police stations (Port Stephens Area Command), will now be known as Port Stephens/Hunter Police District, a consolidation of Port Stephens LAC and the northern sectors of Central Hunter LAC,” she said.
“The travel time for a police officer to reach us will now be over an hour or even two if officers need to be deployed from the far west of this new command area.
“Not good enough! It is not a privilege to feel safe, it is a right!
“What I’d like to see is Stroud and Tea Gardens go into the Manning Great Lakes area command.
“Let’s draw a line and gather Tea Gardens and Stroud in. It just would make sense. We’re in the Manning Great Lakes for RFS and our education.
“Nobody knows the truth, and I would really like our NSW police department to actually come out and make a statement. Either squash the rumours, or admit them.”
Karuah RSL CEO, Ross Parr and a group of Karuah residents travelled to the meeting to show their support for their local police.
“It’s a disgrace if they close our station,” Mr Parr said.
“We are already isolated, this will make it worse. We will be 35 minutes away from our closest police, the plan just doesn’t make any sense.
“All that will happen from this is small areas like Karuah will become magnets for criminals who will be able to get away with whatever they want.”
A spokesperson from the Police Minister Troy Grant’s office denied that any police stations would be closing through the process.
“There is absolutely no truth to the statement,” they said.
“No police stations will be closing down from this process.
“This is about putting more boots on the ground where they are needed, and that has been announced by Commissioner Fuller.”
However, long term Hawks Nest resident Karen Stewart-Katz isn’t convinced that the local police stations are out of trouble.
“Even if they don’t go ahead with it now, it still may be on the cards in the near future,” she said.
“I have lived here 15 years, and we need local police on so many levels, more than just dealing with crime.
“My husband is in the local fire brigade, he knows what it’s like responding to emergencies and he sees things people don’t want to see,” Ms Stewart-Katz continued.
“Who’s going to deal with this if there are no police?
“It’s all well and good to say they aren’t closing the stations now, but often these things happen so quickly, without any consultation of the community.
“We are rate payers and residents, and we want to be heard,” she said.