Over-stretched emergency workers in 'murder capital of NZ' Kaitaia cry out for help

Police in the Far North are crying out for help, as homicide rates there soar.

Police are crying out for help and emergency services across the board say they're struggling. Source: 1 NEWS

The small town of Kaitiaia has been dubbed "the murder capital of New Zealand" and police have told ONE News that description is spot on. 

With four killings and hundreds of other crimes in their small town already this year, first responders say they're slammed and need more Government support.

A Far North Fire Service chief, Colin Kitchen, has described one incident when fire volunteers were abused by people at the scene of a stabbing while they tried to treat the dying victim.

"They said 'you caused this person to die and we’re going to get you and your family'," Mr Kitchen said.  

"We got volunteers giving their time 24-seven without recompense and when they get abused like that we're just going to walk away."

Mr Kitchen said two weeks ago his team had nine callouts in a 24 hour period. 

Police in the Far North are also reporting high workloads and say Kaitaia is plagued by violence.

Far North Fire Service Chief Colin Kitchen has described fire volunteers being abused at the scene of a stabbing. Source: 1 NEWS

"Police officers in the Far North have been absolutely slammed with serious crime, most of it around organised crime and drugs. Also of course child abuse," says Police Association President Greg O'Connor.

"And quite frankly, although there is some relief in the short term, there are simply not enough of them to deal with what is a burgeoning gang and meth problem up there." 

In the last two years, there have been 21 homicides and related offences which encompass murder, manslaughter and attempted murders, in the Far North. 

By contrast, the wider Rotorua and Taupo areas have similar sized populations, but they've seen eight and 11 homicides and related offences respectively, in the same period.

The assistance that’s been provided to them is on going - Police District Area Commander Russell le Prou

"With three gang-related homicides just this year, if you had those many gang related homicides in somewhere like Melbourne, people would be making movies about it," Mr O'Connor said.

While 32 officers patrol Kaitaia, there's no 24-hour policing. And although the district is about to get six extra staff for 12 months, they won't be based in Kaitaia.  

Police District Area Commander Russell le Prou said he understands how staff feel.

"I've sat in front of those staff and listened to them and their concerns. The assistance that's been provided to them is on going," he said.  

Part of that assistance included the temporary team of six and extra staffing support so officers can take annual leave.  

But the measures aren't enough, according to Mr O'Connor.

"The police officers in the Far North have been absolutely slammed with serious crime," he said.

"Unless there is some serious investment up there and an intent to actually get the gangs under control, the situation can only deteriorate and the losers are going to be the good people of Kaitaia and the Far North."

For more on this story tune into ONE News at Six tonight on TV ONE.