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Friday, June 18, 2021

New Road Policing Centre to be built in Hume

ACT traffic cops will have a new workplace next year, and their commander promises it will be “the best equipped police station in the ACT”. About time, some might feel; the current Traffic Operations Centre (TOC) in Belconnen is “atrocious”, according to the police industry body.

The new, 6,000 sqm building, at 24 Sawmill Circuit, Hume, will contain office space, training rooms, labs, and workshops to examine vehicles involved in serious and fatal collisions, said Mick Gentleman, Minister for Police and Emergency Services.

Eighty police officers – including the crash investigation team, Road Planning, Emergency Management and Planning, and Radio Technicians – will be stationed at the new facility, as well as 25 cars and 17 motorbikes.

Being close to the Monaro Highway, traffic police will be able to travel quickly to the north or south of the Territory.

The ACT Government has allocated $4.9 million for the new facility, expected to be completed by December, and leased the site for 15 years. Police will move into the building next year.

“It significantly enhances the morale of our troops,” said Neil Gaughan, Chief Police Officer for the ACT. “They have been in a location in Belconnen that is quite dated. They’re going to move to brand new, fit-for-purpose accommodation. … It will have state-of-the-art technology, up-to-date computer systems, everything that a modern police force needs.”

Mick Gentleman, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and Neil Gaughan, Chief Police Officer for the ACT. Photo: Nick Fuller

The Australian Federal Police Association has welcomed the news. “The TOC workforce is very pleased with this outcome and look forward to moving into a modern, and more importantly, safe and fit-for-purpose facility,” said AFPA president Alex Caruana.

The current facility posed a significant health and safety issue and was not fit for purpose, Mr Caruana said.

“The Traffic Operations Centre in Belconnen is a tired and outdated building, and this outcome has been sought for years.”

In a submission to the ACT Government last year, the AFPA said the TOC was poorly maintained. “The state of the building is atrocious, with poor maintenance clearly on display and conditions that are unacceptable and potentially hazardous.”

Comcare found last year that the Belconnen facility breached work health and safety laws, and ordered the ACT Government to fix 21 priority one defects by January, or be fined up to $250,000.

Mr Gentleman said the ACT Government had worked with WorkSafe ACT to minimise problems with the old centre. “But in the long term, we do need a new facility, and [the Hume site] is ideal.”

The AFPA also criticised other police stations. Gungahlin is not up to the standard of a modern police station; built as a part-time station, it is small, and the facilities are limited. “City Police Station leaks when it rains, and is a dated building,” the AFPA told the ABC last year. “The Winchester Police Centre is in a similar state.”

The ACT Government was committed to improving police stations and facilities, a spokesperson said. It had provided funding to ACT Policing to develop a 20-year Master Accommodation Plan that would ensure stations and facilities were fit-for-purpose.

Mr Gaughan described the plan as “a great step forward”. Improving Gungahlin Police Station would be the next step.

The Government would also consider Weston Creek and the City Police Station, Mr Gentleman said.

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