Completing the Government’s promised gun register will be the most important piece of work Poto Williams will achieve as Police Minister, she told delegates at the 86th Police Association Annual Conference.
Ms Williams, who opened the conference, said she believed the register would go a long way to providing greater protection for the community and frontline staff.
She also spoke about the work her Arms Advisory Group was doing on the firearms licensing regime and regulatory framework to ensure firearms don’t end up in criminal hands.
“Their important work is about getting the balance right for our communities, so that firearms are used legitimately, and communities are protected. Cabinet will soon be meeting to look at approving a new operating model for delivering improvements in the management of the firearms regime.”
A date on when the register – part of the gun reforms introduced by the previous Police Minister Stuart Nash last year – would be set up was not provided.
Ms Williams said the Government remained committed to providing police with resources to keep staff safe and do their jobs effectively, pointing to the recently launched Tactical Response Model.
In response to questions on the value of generally arming police, the minister said officers were currently able to walk into situations and deal with them with mana and authority. She put her faith in “engagement and discussion rather than leading from the hip”.
Ms Williams acknowledged the hard work done and the pressure police were under since the Delta outbreak in August.
She talked about the key role police has undertaken to keep communities safe and maintain border checkpoints around the upper North Island, as well as the stress such work put on officers and the wider public.
“We can also see so clearly how police make a meaningful contribution not just to the safety of our communities, but also to their wellness.”
Asked what the Government was doing to reduce the strain that MIQ facilities were placing on Police staff, the minister said a paper on the matter was going to Cabinet in the coming weeks.
Responding to a question on whether vaccination mandates were coming in for police, as they have in the health and teaching sector, the minister said that was a discussion for Police, though she was concerned about the tailing off of vaccinations among officers in the past month and encouraged members to take advantage of the vaccination programme.
Family and sexual harm were recognised key focus areas for police by Ms Williams, who worked in the field before becoming an MP.
She said the Government was investing in the Integrated Safety Response programme and the Whāngaia Ngā Pā Harakeke model that involve police engaging with iwi, other Government agencies, NGOs and the community to provide a whole-of-family and whānau approach to addressing family harm.
“The aim is to improve the effectiveness of Police Safety Orders as an intervention tool by providing access to 24/7 accommodation and wrap-around support services for people using violence, working with their whānau and families to develop effective strategies to stop using violence.”
She said a paper on a national strategy and action plan eliminating family and sexual violence is being considered by Cabinet and should be released before the end of the year.