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CCTV needs council oversight

Dean Fawcett of Masterton police controlling the town’s CCTV system. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM

MARCUS ANSELM

[email protected]

Martinborough’s closed-circuit television [CCTV] will need ongoing public funding to reach standards set in nearby Masterton, local business chiefs say.

The team behind Martinborough’s new CCTV monitors want police and the South Wairarapa District Council to maintain the system to match Masterton’s operations.

Masterton District Council funds and maintains more than a dozen cameras through a sophisticated, locked-down system housed at the Masterton Police Station on Church St.

Local police officers say the system works but it does come at a cost to the public purse.

Masterton District Council has budgeted about $20,000 in recent years for maintenance and upgrades to its system.

This year, it has forecast $50,000 as the network expands into parks and open spaces.

CCTV has been used across Masterton’s central business district since 2004 and is used to varying degrees across Wairarapa.

Police used CCTV footage taken from Carterton businesses in several recent cases, including May’s hit-and-run incident which left a forestry worker in intensive care, and a recent spate of crimes in the town. It also has a centralised system maintained by its district council.

Martinborough’s town business association [MBA] was the driver behind the move to introduce the cameras to the village.

Allan Hogg, the MBA chair, raised the matter to the ward’s community board at its meeting last week.

Hogg said an upgrade to existing equipment would cost $21,000 to set up with estimated running costs of $1400 per year.

He said his association recommended SWDC adopt ownership and the ongoing management of the CCTV and recording system.

“The system is passive and is only accessed by police on a need and/or event basis,” he told board members and councillors.

“[We are] keen to continue to support the initiative by annual fundraising from the area business community for maintenance and capital costs for upgrade.”

Hogg said he was keen to implement “smart technology” to make access easier for police.

The six-camera set-up in Martinborough cost about $30,000 when it was introduced last year, after a fundraiser.

A grant from the Wairarapa Trust House licencing trust provided a cash injection of $7000, topping up funds raised locally from the community board, Rotary, and an online campaign. Local companies Securatel and Campbell Technologies manage the system, having been approved by New Zealand Police.

In Masterton, cameras have kept a close watch on the central business district since 2004.

It was introduced by the council to enforce the town’s liquor ban and prevent vandalism.

Reported crime dropped within two years of its introduction, according to police data.

This came at a cost, with an initial outlay of $240,000. Another $70,000 was spent to extend the system in 2013.

MDC sets aside an annual budget for improvements and maintenance, Masterton officer Dean Fawcett, who runs the system, said.

Fawcett said he thought CCTV was “an invaluable tool” against vandalism and minor violence in the town, identified culprits, and ultimately prevented crime.

“At the time, there was a bit of disorder in the CBD.

“The liquor ban was being initiated. The cameras have been an invaluable tool against crime, and part and parcel of putting the cameras in was the signage.

“Everyone knew they were there, so they had a preventative effect almost immediately.”

At the Martinborough meeting, board member Aidan Ellims, said the use of CCTV had been a “big selling point” when a permanent police presence ended in the town.

Ellims, a former police constable in Martinborough, said councils had often maintained CCTV systems in towns.

“Looking at the amount the community raised, that’s a figure that the police aren’t going to pull out of their hats and fund themselves.

“Proportionally, that cost is what the police were paying to fund an officer in Martinborough. So they saved that money, and the community has jumped on board to fundraise.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said council and police were “the logical owner” of the system.

“The logical place for this to sit is with council and police.”

The board recommended SWDC officers should compile a report on how the proposal could work.

-NZLDR

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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