The Whanganui police area commander says plans for a new police hub are progressing and a revised completion date will soon be set.
The Whanganui Police Hub is to be built as part of a centralised justice hub, alongside a planned new courthouse on the former UCOL site in the west of the city.
The “shovel-ready” police project secured $25 million of government funding in 2020 to accelerate planning, and construction was expected to begin last year.
Area Commander Inspector Ross Grantham told Local Democracy Reporting an announcement about site preparation and construction is expected to be made by the Te Puna Hapori Governance Group in the next few months.
“Plans for the Whanganui Police Hub are continuing to progress, with police and iwi committed to the project for the benefit of the community.”
Te Puna Hapori, a collective of local iwi, hapū and community organisations and agencies, has been working together for better outcomes in the justice system.
The UCOL site was formerly owned by the Ministry of Education but was transferred to the Ministry of Justice as part of preparations for Treaty settlement being negotiated between the Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust and the Crown. The Trust expects the land to return to iwi and hapū ownership in the future.
A police spokesperson said the police would lease land on the Bell Street site for the new police station.
She said local iwi were involved in governance, planning and design for the new hub.
Whanganui iwi leader Ken Mair confirmed last year that iwi and hapū were working with the Justice Ministry and police on building a centralised hub that included community-led social, health and community services.
Grantham said pandemic-related pressures on the construction industry had had a significant impact on the timeliness of the project.
“Funding for the project remains available and a revised completion date will be set in due course,” Grantham said.
Earlier in the week, a police spokesperson told Local Democracy Reporting the project was still in the early stages of design and there were no confirmed dates for when building would begin or the new station would open.
The size of the station, what facilities it would include and how much it would cost had yet to be decided, she said.
In August 2020, then police minister Stuart Nash announced $25m of funding for the Whanganui Police Hub from a new infrastructure fund and described the project as shovel-ready.
He said the existing Whanganui Central Police Station was more than 50 years old, “completely outdated” and no longer fit for purpose.
“The building fabric, services, infrastructure and work environment are all beyond their useful life. The layout and functionality does not meet future policing requirements nor provide a safe and secure place for police staff to deliver services to the public.
“This project has been a high priority for local police.”
Nash said in 2020 that the police station build would play a big part in the economic recovery of the region and was expected to directly generate around 100 jobs and support hundreds of others. The new funding would allow police and other agencies to accelerate the planning for this project and it was possible the first sod-turning could be in 2021, he said.
In October last year, the justice minister announced a $50m courthouse would be built in Whanganui with “community-led well-being” central to its design. It would be an opportunity to redesign court facilities that help put victims at the heart of the justice system.
The courthouse and police station are currently located in the city centre. The new location for both structures is a large block bounded by Bell, Dublin, Wicksteed and Liverpool streets.
The new courthouse and police station will take up only part of the site, allowing for health, social and community services to be located together. Māori health provider Te Oranganui currently operates from the site. There is also a large marae complex, Rangahaua.
In October 2021, the Justice Minister said the new courthouse was expected to open in 2025, and a master plan for the building site would be completed by the end of 2021.
The existing courthouse and the 1803 square metres of land it sits on is owned by Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui, the Post Settlement Governance Entity for the Whanganui River (Te Awa Tupua) Treaty settlement.
The future of the existing courthouse and police station have yet to be determined.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air