Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:27): I rise today to raise serious community concerns from the people in the Riverland about the future of Renmark Police Station. Renmark Police Station is operating on bare bones or on stand-by until there is an available patrol, and it is only open when particular patrols are not out on the beat. The Renmark-Paringa district is home to 9,000 people and the closest station is at Berri, which is about 20 minutes away.
Renmark Police Station is servicing not just the town of Renmark. Renmark has neighbouring communities, whether it be out at Chaffey, Paringa, Renmark North or Renmark West. It is quite a widespread area to service. I recently anonymously received an internal leaked email about the refurbishment of Berri Police Station. Clearly, internally, questions had been asked by local staff about why Berri Police Station front services are being relocated to Barmera and not Renmark. There was a question and an answer in that one email. The internal correspondence states:
Barmera was chosen as it reduces the risk of [the] Renmark community becoming accustomed to front station services alike previous services.
It goes on:
Renmark may be a bigger office space, however from customer service, impact will be easier to return to normal services once Berri Police Station re-opens.
In no way do I want to criticise SAPOL. I think SAPOL does an outstanding job upholding the law, making their presence felt, keeping our streets safe and keeping our communities much safer.
What concerns me is the lack of transparency about the future of Renmark Police Station. The minister has stated that it is not his responsibility to make the decisions or to make the call on what happens and that it is actually the commissioner's responsibility. I would say that surely the state government or the minister would never close it because they could not afford the public backlash from the Renmark community.
Let everyone be assured that the Renmark community is concerned. They do not want to see what happened to the Renmark hospital happen to Renmark Police Station. Has the state government consulted with the community on how they feel they will be best served to keep our community as safe as possible? As I understand it, the refurbishment of the Berri Police Station complex will take seven months. When will that refurbishment take place? When will those renovations be finished? What is important is when it will begin and what budget that money will be coming from.
We were told that the police station at Berri and police services will remain open to the Berri community throughout the refurbishment work and that other Riverland towns in the area will not be impacted. It is becoming increasingly clearer to me that the state government has no intention of changing the current set-up of Renmark Police Station for the betterment of its local community. It is a sad indictment to find out, when we have the truth through internal correspondence, what is going on for the future of Renmark Police Station.
Every community deserves the right to be a safe community upheld by the great work of SAPOL. We have an internal leaked email with concerns about why they do not want to put any front-line services or front-line administration in a police station and that they would rather leave it largely unattended so that people in that community do not become accustomed to having a SAPOL presence. I think it is outrageous that SAPOL, the minister and the commissioner are not making transparency available to a community of 9,000 people.
I want to make sure that the people of Renmark are kept in the light about what is going on with their police station. For too long at Renmark, we have seen relocated administration services that have positions that have not been filled. As I understand it, that administration service moved down to Murray Bridge—again, a sad indictment for a large community that is quite isolated and that feels as though they have been gypped, that they have been ripped off by a government that does not give a damn about what happens in the regions. What happens in the regions is almost a second priority.
This is about me sticking up for my community at Renmark, Paringa, Chaffey and those outlying areas around the Renmark district. Renmark deserves a police service. It deserves a front-line service in a police station for their safety and for their concerns.