The state’s top cop has doubled down on his commitment to keep the Queanbeyan police force at its current location.
It had been the town’s worst kept secret that Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council was progressing plans to house the police in its proposed new headquarters.
However, in a budget estimates committee meeting last week NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said he would not endorse a move and expected the government to honour its commitment to a new station at its current location.
“We needed a new police station, we owned the site, it is next to a courthouse, we have been given the money - build the police station,” Commissioner Fuller said.
“We have learnt that when we build new police stations in justice precincts, if there is a courthouse we need to be next to the courthouse, otherwise it impacts on local police, it impacts on transportation and a whole range of things.”
One potential pitfall with a rebuild on the current site is the suggestion there is geological issues relating to groundwater beneath the station. Commissioner Fuller said he would not allow this to get in the way of a new Queanbeyan station.
“There are some issues underground in terms of water movement,” he said.
“If it is going to cost slightly more money I would still rather go back to government and get the additional money to deal with that than put a police station somewhere where the police and the community do not want it.”
Despite the Commissioner’s comments, Member for Monaro John Barilaro would not commit to a new facility at the current location, citing the geological concerns as a principal reason.
“The government is not going to be pressured into making a rushed decision,” Mr Barilaro said.
“We are going to ensure that we get this right.
“We do not want the new police station to be impacted by the same water issues that are plaguing the current police station.”
Commissioner Fuller revealed in estimates he only found out about the proposed move into the council building when Police Minister Troy Grant mentioned it at an August budget estimates hearing.
Labor MLC Courtney Houssos who questioned Commissioner Fuller in the estimates hearing said Mr Barilaro had been keeping his electorate in the dark about the new police station.
Mr Barilaro’s rival for the seat of Monaro, Labor’s Bryce Wilson, said he welcomed the commissioner’s commitment.
“We are three Budgets on from when [Superintendent] Rod Smith described the working conditions of our local police as ‘pretty awful’, I can’t imagine they are any better today,” Mr Wilson said.
“As I have said before, let’s build what our police want, where they want and let’s get on with it.”
Mr Barilaro said this was characteristic of Labor “playing politics” and not focusing on delivery.
Commissioner Fuller’s comments cast doubt over the future of council’s new headquarters with general manager Peter Tegart stating in September the project would not go ahead without a tenant.
The council refused to comment on Commissioner Fuller’s recent statements.
A heads of agreement was signed between the council and the police in May resulting in the council engaging Cox Architecture to develop designs, which included specifications to accommodate the police.
As evidenced by Commissioner Fuller’s remarks he had no knowledge of this project despite a lease agreement being prepared before he eventually stepped in and stopped the progress of the move.
Commissioner Fuller indicated he wanted procurement for the project to begin as soon as possible.