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Winton residents fight to upgrade town's ageing surveillance cameras

The Southland App

28 February 2024, 11:36 PM

Winton residents fight to upgrade town's ageing surveillance camerasWinton's Crime Prevention Camera Area. Photo: Supplied

Winton residents have been left reeling, after an appeal from Police to have their town's ageing crime prevention cameras upgraded, was rejected by the Oreti Community Board at its 18 December meeting.

Photo: iStock/PhonlamailPhoto

The three Southland District Council-owned cameras were first installed on Winton's Great North Road in 2002. They were subsequently upgraded in 2015.

Winton Police Senior Sergeant Pete Graham said he approached the Community Board in mid-2023 with a recommendation to consider funding an upgrade of the system.

“[The cameras] are obviously at end-of-life now and need to go to a digital system.”

“I believe not having cameras in the town would put locals at risk.”

Graham said digital cameras would give a much better image and would operate by wifi instead of hard cabling.

Similar systems already operate in Te Anau and Gore, where data is recorded at the local Police Station but only accessed when there was evidence of a crime.

“There's a hard and fast memorandum that Police have signed with the District Council for running those cameras,” Graham said.

“There’s real strict procedures on what we do with the information.”

“And because they're in a public place, there's signposting letting people know that they are entering an area that's covered by the crime prevention cameras,” he said.

Graham said in a perfect world he would also like to see cameras at the John Street reserve and at both ends of the town.

The surprise community board decision to decline was moved by Dave Diack and seconded by Chris Herud. Chair Colin Smith, Deputy Chair Philip Dobson and SDC Councillor Darren Fraser all voted in favour of the cameras.

Smith said he didn’t know why the board voted to disapprove the motion.

“Originally, some of the board members raised some concerns around privacy issues at the start. Those questions were given to the Police and [they] answered them, I believe, to everyone's satisfaction.”

“We had allowed $40,000 [for 4 cameras]. [It] was coming from the property sales account, which was already sitting there. So it wasn't costing the ratepayer as such anything.”

“I spoke in favor of getting the cameras but I couldn't persuade them so they voted them down.”

“I don't think the majority of the community is very happy, and they will probably let us know in due course,” Smith said.

Winton Business Association chair Daphne Fairbairn, who had spoken to the board in favour of the recommendation, said they were very surprised and couldn't believe the decision.

“It shouldn't be that hard."

"It's just one of those things that we all sort of thought, well, it's a no brainer to protect their assets, as well as the town community.”

“Crime can be solved so much quicker when they've got camera evidence.”

“It's not about our own individual business, it's about the benefits of the whole town. Protecting the people on the street.”

“So now we are campaigning, as a voice from the public and the businesses and the general community, that the cameras are needed and for them to relook at their decision,” Fairbairn said.

“We have got quite a few letters that have come back from individuals that have felt strongly.”

Central Southland College (Year 11) students are expected to be conducting a survey in the next few weeks, to gauge community opinion on the town's crime prevention cameras.

There would still be an avenue to submit to the [draft] long term plan when it comes out for public consultation, Smith said.

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