Patrollers want funding

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Nelson’s Community Patrollers say they are fed up spending their weekends volunteering to keep Nelson safe without any financial support from Nelson City Council.

Nelson’s Community Patrol was originally founded as Night Watch in 1994 after the brutal murder of Kevin O’Laughlin in Montgomery Square car park.

At the time the council supported the group by lending them a car, paying costs including petrol, appointing a liaison officer and lending the use of the council chambers for meetings. Funding dried up several years ago, despite funding for similar groups like the Street Ambassadors continuing.

The Nelson Community Patrol is one of 150 around New Zealand and it also one of the few that doesn’t attract support from its local council.

Community Patrols in Richmond and Motueka are funded by the Tasman District Council, with the council paying the vehicle costs including petrol.

Nelson volunteer Brian Ramsay says all they’re after is enough money to pay for petrol and car servicing. He says $10,000 a year would more than cover their costs.

“When you see $80,000 dished out for freedom campers just like that, it does make you mad. We’re trying to do our bit to keep Nelson safe and we don’t get any support from the council.”

Community Patrol volunteers work in threes every Friday and Saturday night, with some day patrols as well.

One volunteer will man the CCTV screens at the police station while two others patrol in a MS Ford-sponsored car.

They attend police briefings at the start of the night and keep in contact via a police radio.

Brian says the patrol acts as “eyes and ears” for police and often help stop crime or keep an eye on someone who may have committed one until police arrive.

He says, with no funding from the council, the volunteers also have to spend their time cooking sausage sizzles to pay for petrol.

“We’re not asking for zillions, we’re just asking for enough to keep us going and keep the place safe.”

Nelson City councillor Ian Barker, who is chair of the Governance Committee, says that they deserve the funding but there is a “gap” in what the police are doing.

“They [Nelson Community Patrol] do a wonderful job for the community, and they do an awful lot to help our city out to make it safer. They certainly have a very strong argument,” he says.

“But it used to be funded by the police, and there is a gap which ratepayers could have to pay for.”

He says the patrol “deserve” to have the funding situation looked at by the council.

“I have advised them to put in an application to the annual plan and I think they would most certainly be supported.”

Nelson Bays Police area commander, Inspector Mat Arnold-Kelly, says the patrol is supported by police and that they do a good job supporting police and helping to keep the streets safe.

“The community patrol do a great job. They provide valuable sets of extra eyes and ears, and we’re glad to have them.“