New Police Minister Ginny Andersen reveals her main priority in role

Police Minister Ginny Andersen says she will be working every day to make sure New Zealanders feel safer.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday announced Andersen would take over the role, after previous minister Stuart Nash resigned.

Nash spoke on the radio about phoning the police minister two years prior about whether a sentencing he disagreed with would be appealed. This breached two rules for ministers: Avoiding being seen to influence police prosecution decisions, and not commenting on individual judicial decisions.

Andersen, the MP for Hutt South, joined on a tour of the Hutt Valley north of Wellington this morning. Hipkins also represents the neighbouring Remutaka electorate, which includes Upper Hutt, where he lives.

Speaking to media for the first time since she took on her new role, she said she knew it was a big job but she was familiar with the organisation and was committed to doing a good job.

"I know it's a big job and I know first hand that policing is a tough job out there.

"I take the job incredibly seriously. I'm proud to have worked within police in the past and I'll take those skills that I've learned and apply them every day."

Andersen has previously worked in police for 10 years as non-sworn staff focusing on policy work. This included Māori, Pacific and ethnic services with a focus on reducing Māori offending, as well as work on tackling methamphetamine and organised crime.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said the government needed to "tackle crime really hard and make sure that we make progress on it".

"From our point of view, we want the government to look at our plan, we're going to back police, we're going to tackle gangs, and we're going to create some serious youth offender categories as well.

He said serious consequences for serious offenders were needed.

"We need to be on the side of victims of crime, not on the side of offenders and that's why we've talked about making sure we have really strong gang policy, that we tackle the gangs, ban gang patches in public spaces, stop them consorting and associating, making sure we can have warrantless search powers for illegal guns, certainly create a serious youth offender category so that we can actually make power interventions in young people's lives and get them on the right track again. We think using youth military academies supported by community organisations is a great way to do that.

"I just don't accept that we have to accept that this is now the new normal in New Zealand, we can do much, much better than this."

National's Mark Mitchell said yesterday the appointment of Andersen, who has only been in Cabinet since last month and is second-lowest ranked, sent a signal Labour had given up on law and order. Hipkins, however, expressed his confidence in her.

Andersen today thought she had some advantages in terms of her experience.

"I think having a good understanding of the mechanics of how the police work and also knowing what it's like for those men and women who put themselves on the frontline each day."

She said there was a political narrative going on in law and order at the moment, and she wanted to have the conversation with other parties about what could be done to help improve community safety.

She made clear, however, her main priority was improving community safety - making sure New Zealanders felt safe - and within that would focus on targeting retail crime and youth offending.

Part of that would be making sure police were available on the front line and responding.

"My single focus will be improving community safety. I want New Zealanders to feel safe," she said. "I think we need to continue seeing reductions that we've seen in retail crime and I'll be working closely with police to make sure we continue to do that."

She said she had been encouraged by her meetings with retailers and shop owners, and the rollout of fog cannons was progressing "incredibly well", although more work in that area was needed.

She was happy with the progress on the fog cannon rollout.

"We've had over 500 applications through already. They're done in a short period of time, so the way it works is they're issued a voucher immediately within 15 minutes online, and once they have that voucher there are 18 providers working across the country to install it."

She was also keen on targeting organised crime and gang activity, which she also had experience with, she said, and targeting dealers rather than users would have a greater effect on methamphetamine supply.

Asked about maintaining independence from police, she said she had Police Commissioner Andrew Coster's phone number and called him 'the commissioner', and would maintain a professional working relationship.