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Police houses “no attraction”

Saturday, 2nd July, 2011

Country towns like Broken Hill that find it hard to attract and retain police officers are being let down by the “disgraceful” state of police housing, according to the Police Association of NSW.

The association said many of the 620 houses rented to police by the State Government had such bad structural damage that they were not safe to live in.

Maintenance costs were also blowing out because repairs weren’t happening fast enough, it said. 

Police officers say leaking air conditioners, rising damp, cracked walls, rusty roofs, and a lack of privacy and poor security were common problems in police houses.

Chairman of the city’s Police Association, Jim McMillan, said he had heard of “quite a few cases” of bad houses.

“We had to wait three months to have our house fixed here in Menindee,” he told the BDT.

Mr McMillan and his wife Amanda have, over the past six months, had their home invaded by termites.

“They have been fixed now. I do know about homes that do need a lot of work. These are things we have been fighting for for years,” he said.

Mr McMillan said he had even heard of cases of police officers being refused lawn despite the lead levels in the city.

Police Association treasurer, Prue Burgen, said in some regional areas policing was “very tough.”

“Officers have to cover vast distances and it can be very isolated,” she said.

If the condition of their houses is also a mess, it makes it that much more difficult to get officers and their families to move to remote locations.

“What makes it worse is that police often compare their houses to those occupied by local teachers, which are of a much higher standard. 

“That’s because housing for teachers is overseen by the Teacher Housing Authority. The THA understands what it takes to maintain public sector housing in remote areas, and we would like to see them take over responsibility for police housing too.”

Ms Burgun said that the THA was prepared to take over responsibility, but not until an urgent injection of funding was given to bring the standard of police housing up to scratch. 

“Our estimates indicate that it will take between $50 and $100 million over the next five years to get police accommodation up to an acceptable level that the THA would be comfortable to manage.

“We would also like to see a commitment to provide an ongoing source of revenue for maintenance, replacement and provision of additional housing stock for police where required. 

“This would include an annual commitment by the Police Force and all rents paid by officers being directed into a housing budget to be administered by the THA.

“If the Government is serious about attracting more police officers into regional and remote areas, they need to get serious about funding for police housing. The two go hand in hand.

“Urgent action needs to be taken now to address this issue otherwise a number of communities will find a reduction in the number of police officers and their families willing to move to these locations as a result.” 

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