Economist Cameron Bagrie warns new police funding will be sucked up meeting inflation

An independent economist says the Government's new funding for the police is actually just keeping up with inflation.

On Sunday the Government a near-$600 million package to help tackle crime.

It will see an increase in police numbers, nearly $100m to tackle gang violence and extend the successful rehabilitation programmes to break the cycle of offending and entering a life of crime, the Government says.

In one of the first major announcements for the 2022 Budget - to be announced by Finance Minister Grant Roberston on May 19 - the Government said it will invest more than $562 million over four years into police.

But independent Economist Cameron Bagrie told AM co-host Ryan Bridge much of that money will actually end up being used to meet increasing costs.

"If you drill down and look at the numbers, what we struggle to work out is how much of that new funding is actually new funding or is it just business as usual to keep the police lights on," Bagrie said on Tuesday.

"If you look at the baseline funding… Over the next four years, police funding expenditure over the half-year economic and fiscal market is actually expected to drop and to drop by about $100 million. So if you divide $560 million by four years, because it's a four-year programme, and lo and behold it's about $140 million per year.

"Now $140 million per year to that police baseline is effectively going to leave police spending flat a couple of years out relative to what it is today."

Bagrie said any money is good but it might not be the boost some were hoping for.

"Glass half full, any funding initiative to address crime is really good," he said. "It's new money and it's going to help but how much of that is just going to be sucked up in keeping the lights on, pay increases, those sorts of things."

He said Government departments aren't immune to inflation and are also feeling the sting.

"Inflation is the thief that's hitting people's pockets, it's hitting firms' profitability and it's going to hit Government departments as well."

When announcing the funding Police Minister Poto Williams said it will help police tackle violent offending.

"This Budget builds on our investment in record police numbers, tackling gun crime and violent offenders and reducing reoffending, all of which help to keep New Zealand communities safe," Williams said.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said that even though youth crime was decreasing, "there is more to do" as other areas were increasing.

"Our investment in law and order has made a difference. Since we took office, we have 1411 more Police on the frontline - the highest number in our history, youth crime has decreased and there are 3,083 fewer people in our prisons," he said. "But there is more to do.

"In recent years we have seen increases in gun crime, gang activity and even more recently some forms of youth offending that puts both our communities and our police at risk and we must address that.

"Our response needs to address the root causes of crime, especially when it relates to young people, provide more rehabilitation to reduce reoffending and actively pursue and prosecute those who participate in illegal gang activity."

Williams said the first priority of the new package was to increase police numbers on the front line.

"When we took office, turning around declining police numbers was our number one priority. Once we achieve our goal of an extra 1800 Police officers later this year we will ensure numbers don't fall away again by maintaining an ongoing ratio of one police officer to every 480 New Zealanders.

The $600m package will target seven areas:

  • Deliver "largest police force ever"

  • Set aside extra funding to grow the police force to match population growth

  • An additional $94 million into tackling gangs and organised crime

  • Funding to support businesses to protect themselves from ram raiders

  • Targeting gun crime with the establishment of new firearms unit within the police

  • Increase the safety of frontline police with the nationwide rollout of the tactical response model with the training of more police officers to armed offenders squad standard

  • Breaking the cycle of crime with $198.3 million investment in programmes that break the cycle of offending and funding for 518 extra Corrections staff to support rehabilitation