PM Christopher Luxon walks back comments by Police Minister about timeframe to recruit 500 officers


Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is walking back comments made by the Police Minister about the timeframe it would take to recruit 500 extra officers.

On Tuesday, Mark Mitchell told the House the government would deliver 500 additional police officers over the term of this government, which is three years.

Yet, the government's coalition agreement with New Zealand First says the parties will deliver on that commitment within the first two years.

Luxon told Morning Report the minister mis-spoke.

"Mark could have expressed himself better. What he was talking to was some of the significant challenges police are certainly facing with respect to recruitment," Luxon said.

"But we're an ambitious government, we know it's hard, we know it's tough, we know it's challenging, but we're sticking with 500 police officers in two years."

He said he had not been a party to any discussions the target be moved to three years.

After Mitchell's remarks in Parliament, there had been discussions last night both with the minister and New Zealand First on the policy, Luxon said.

Asked if Mitchell would need to correct the record in Parliament, Luxon said it would be something that the government would "work through this [Wednesday] morning".

It was important that despite the challenges posed by the target the government stuck to it in order to restore law and order for the country, he said. It was also part of the coalition agreement and would not be changed.

New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, told Morning Report the parties' chiefs of staff spoke overnight and were now reiterating their commitment to train 500 new police officers in the next two years.

"We are trying to get our heads around what we were not told coming into this last election about the true state of affairs and the level of attrition and attraction of our police force to the Australian recruitment service.

"So we've got a problem here, but we're not giving up on it at all," he said.

"Our plan is to deliver on what we promised."

Police Minister Mark Mitchell.
Police Minister Mark Mitchell. Photo credit: AM

Mitchell's comments in Parliament

Earlier, RNZ had reported that the coalition agreement between National and New Zealand First said the parties would "commit to training no fewer than 500 new frontline police within the first two years" and this now seemed to have changed.

However, under questioning in Parliament on Tuesday, Mitchell pushed out the timeline.

"The government's policy is to deliver 500 additional police officers over the term of this government, which is three years," he said.

Labour's police spokesperson Ginny Andersen then accused the government of backtracking on one of its coalition promises.

"National's coalition agreement with New Zealand First promises 500 new frontline police within two years, and today Mark Mitchell has walked away from that. That's a concern for all those other promises that are outlined in the coalition agreement," she told RNZ.

Mitchell denied it was a walk-back, saying he had received advice in his Briefing to the Incoming Minister that there were issues around recruiting.

"We discovered that it was difficult to fill existing recruit wings, that the Australians are here recruiting our police officers, and that we've got lots of senior police officers that are coming up to retirement," he told Parliament.