Confusion over Government's 1800 new police target

The Government appears to have shifted the goalposts on a major Coalition commitment.

Overnight, the pledge of 1800 new police officers has gone from simply aspirational to on-track to be delivered next month. But there's still confusion about exactly what the policy is.

On Tuesday, Police Minister Stuart Nash told police it would be tough to reach the goal of 1800 new officers.

"The reason we said strive is because it was aspirational. There's no doubt about that," he told a Police Association conference.

The reason the goal was aspirational was because it would be new police over and above those who leave the force.

"It's why we promised you 1800 new police. Now, that's 1800 new police over and above the current rate, not 1800 more graduates," Nash said.

It was an emphatic statement. However, less than 24 hours later, it's no longer an aspirational target. The Government says it is just about at the finish line.

Nash told the House on Wednesday, "the minister is well aware that we are going to meet the 1800 new police target next month."

That's because on Wednesday the target changed to simply 1800 graduates - not taking into account attrition.

"We need about 1800 new recruits to meet a figure of 1800 new police," Nash said.

The goalposts appear to have shifted after the Prime Minister claimed on Tuesday the target would be met this term.

The promise of additional police is in the coalition agreement with New Zealand First, and they're happy to claim a win.

"Attrition was never part of the coalition agreement, as you well know," NZ First leader Winston Peters said.

In Peters' eyes, it's a promise as good as delivered.

"If you're taking it from me, that's gospel," he said.

The Police Minister appears to be juggling two goals - on the one hand, claiming his own policy is to strive for 1800 net new police over and above officers who leave.

The other goal is the promise to NZ First - the much more achievable target of 1800 trained recruits.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Police Association told Newshub if that's the new goal, the Government is reneging on its promise and that's deeply disappointing. President Chris Cahill said he hoped it is simply "confusion in messaging".