Our focus on rural crime
Rural crime has been getting some attention recently, with debate on the issue a prominent part of the proceedings at the NSW Farmers Association Conference last week. But this is far from a new issue for The Nationals in Government.
As a former country cop, I know the unique challenges faced by our rural police every day and I am proud to say no previous government has put a bigger focus on rural crime than we have.
Illegal hunting is a significant problem across large areas of NSW. Often the impact of illegal hunting is compounded by other offences committed whilst on private property, such as damage to fences, theft of fuel, firearms and other machinery, and damage to or theft of other stock.
In February this year, we announced a review into trespass, poaching and illegal hunting laws to be led by former NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Bradshaw on behalf of the Rural Crime Advisory Group. This was in response to a rise in reports of stock theft, particularly feral goats in Western NSW. While the law allows for up to 14 years imprisonment for the theft of livestock, it can often be difficult to establish ownership and therefore prove the crime occurred.
More broadly, the Rural Crime Advisory Group provides a regular forum for Police to liaise with NSW Farmers, the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association and other rural stakeholders to discuss issues of concern and develop appropriate responses.
Since December 2011 the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has added 886 positions to the NSW Police Force across the state. Although we have allocated record numbers of police to regional NSW our biggest challenge is finding police to fill those positions. I'm working closely with Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to look at new and innovative ways to attract police to the bush. This will include assessing whether the current incentive package is adequate to get the best cops into our towns.
Stephen Bradshaw's report on behalf of the Rural Crime Advisory Group is still to be considered by Cabinet, so watch this space.