Eastern District’s top police officer has confirmed to AM’s Ryan Bridge an incident where a gun was pulled on roadworkers in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle was passed on to Police National Headquarters.
The development comes after Prime Minister Chris Hipkins revealed on AM he was given incorrect police intelligence, which was why he initially claimed there was no first-hand evidence of the incident.
“I regret that one of the comments that I made was taken to be questioning the authenticity of what people were saying,” Hipkins told AM on Tuesday. “The information that I had from the police, at that point, was clearly incorrect.
“Absolutely, I regret the fact that the intel I had was incorrect at that point.”
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster was asked on AM last week about crime in the wake of the cyclone. He did not bring up the roadworker incident despite Eastern District Commander Superintendent Jeanette Park revealing to Bridge the report was sent through to police headquarters.
“I can confirm that the report was sent through, from our point of view, it’s about dealing with it here in our district,” Park told Bridge.
“My staff attended on the night, one of my very competent detective sergeants attended, spoke to the people at the scene and received the information and the investigation continues.”
The only incident Coster raised on AM on the Monday after the incident was a firearms incident he dismissed as something “fairly similar to what we see between gangs in that community in the normal course of things”.
Park said she can understand the community’s “pain” and “challenges” with politicians and top police officials playing down looting and crime occurring in the region since Cyclone Gabrielle.
“I absolutely can sense and feel their pain and challenges. For us here, what we’re seeing is actually our numbers are tracking the same as prior to the cyclone,” she said.
But Park did say in the last 24 hours up to 10pm on Tuesday, there were 18 reports of suspicious activity. This is up from the two or three reports they normally receive a week.
“Those reports coming through are up … it can be anything from somebody reporting a vehicle that’s in the area that we’ve followed up and somebody’s going to take their family to look at the devastation, which is incredibly distressful for those communities,” she explained.
“So for me, we have our people on the ground. I’m with them, I live in this community too and I want people to feel safe and we’re working exceptionally hard.”
A public meeting was held in Napier on Tuesday evening with flood victims saying they feel “exhausted, vulnerable and forgotten”.
Around 200 residents gathered at Crab Farm Winery to address their concerns to authorities – including Police Minister Stuart Nash and other local leaders.
Organiser Louise Parsons told AM later on Wednesday she is hoping their message got across.
“The whole purpose of that meeting was to bring us all together so we could actually have our say, rather than it being rumours,” she told AM.
“We’re not calling it theft, we’re calling it looting because we’re very vulnerable and anyone that comes to a vulnerable community like ours and decides to intimidate and take things from us – it’s looting.”
She told AM in the first few days following the cyclone, the region did not have cell service so people couldn’t report a crime.
She hopes the Government learns from what has happened since the cyclone so the same mistake doesn’t happen again in the future.
“Why we wanted to speak to the authorities is because this is a Government issue if you like, but whoever is in power come October, if this is to happen again, please learn from our experiences,” she said.
“This has been unprecedented and if they could just learn from what we’ve experienced, maybe it can be better next time.”
Tensions have been high in Hawke’s Bay following the cyclone, with residents reporting people witnessing the theft of food and nappies given to hard-hit communities.
Others said generators and prized possessions are being taken from flood-damaged homes.
At the end of last month, East Coast MP Kiri Allan called on criminals and looters targeting flood-stricken towns to “cut it out”.