Mr O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai) [5.34 p.m.]: Last Saturday I attended a public meeting to discuss a new draft plan of management for Bicentennial Park, Pymble. When considering existing park problems, residents raised concerns about a lack of police in the area. I take this opportunity to again raise Ku-ring-gai policing issues, local disquiet about crime rates, police visibility and response times, and the urgent need to re-establish Gordon police station as the centre of Ku-ring-gai's community policing effort. At Saturday's meeting residents reported that explosions in the park, presumably fireworks, were common. Youths use the park as a venue to drink alcohol and use drugs, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. A resident complained that her hose had been chopped up to form parts for a bong; others complained of underage drunkenness. Acts of vandalism are rife—a local councillor noted that even the lighting that had been installed to discourage anti-social behaviour had been damaged. Lighting of fires is common and property has been destroyed. I am also aware that local guide and scout facilities have been subjected to graffiti attacks. Finally, it was also reported that an adjacent preschool and bowling club have both recently been broken into—the latter frequently.
The picture painted was not a happy one. While residents noted the problems were worse in school holidays, they also stated that many of the events cited were becoming commonplace. What disturbed me about the residents' feedback was the sense that the community had virtually given up on the police tackling or trying to solve the problem. This attitude seemed due to difficulty in getting through to report problems and the lack of a police response or a delayed police response. Bicentennial Park is a terrific place. As well as providing a centre to the community of Pymble—with its parks, pool, sporting fields and playground—it is an attraction for all who live in and near Ku-ring-gai. I acknowledge the foresight of council under the then leadership of Richard Lennon in establishing the park. Its significance has been acknowledged by the State Government's decision to grant $60,000 to upgrade the playground. With the $140,000 being invested by council it will become even more central to the lives of Ku-ring-gai's families. Yet at night it is plagued by these serious problems. One resident expressed the view at the meeting that "… it is getting to the stage that the park is becoming a 'no-go' area". I do not believe that can ever be allowed to occur. Policing must be improved and a strong message must be sent to those involved that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.
While I recognise the need for residents and sporting groups who use the park to accept their responsibilities in tackling this issue, the fact is that without an effective police response and backup they cannot succeed. It is simply not acceptable to expect a resident of any age to walk into a group of drunken or even boisterous youths and ask them to be quiet, move on or desist from illegal activities. That would be dangerous. Residents are prepared to do their bit and are considering setting up a park watch as part of the draft plan of management, but it will not work without police backup. I have raised previously my strong concerns about the increase in crime rates across the Ku-ring-gai local government area. While 2001 showed a flattening out in some crime areas, the simple fact is that rates are significantly higher than they were in 1995. I accept that we are not as bad as other parts of Sydney, but it is irrefutable that community safety has deteriorated across Ku-ring-gai during the past seven years. Surely we are not expected to wait until we have comparable crime rates to some of Sydney's crime hot spots before we get action. I have always believed that prevention is better than cure, and that solving a problem is easier earlier than later.
I have raised previously residents' concerns about anti-social behaviour by youths and nascent gang activity at places such as Wade Lane, Gordon. Only yesterday a local businesswoman wrote to me about ongoing problems in Wade Lane and pointed out that much-promised improvements to local policing have not materialised. I again note that this activity occurs within a stone's throw of the Gordon police station. I have raised previously my strong concern that only one general duties police officer is located at Gordon police station. This modern, multimillion dollar station is effectively a white elephant; it is a glorified crime-reporting centre. It should be the centre of community policing for Ku-ring-gai, and I will continue to press for that to occur. I raise the matter of Bicentennial Park to again highlight the inadequate police resources allocated to the Ku-ring-gai municipality. Since the decision to split policing responsibilities between the Hornsby and Chatswood based local area commands, police resources have been concentrated in those major shopping and business districts. Ku-ring-gai does not, in my view, get adequate policing—a view repeated to me often by residents as I work across my electorate.
As the grandson of a policeman my argument is not with those who serve in uniform—they do a terrific job. My argument is with their political masters who are manipulating police resources to suit political outcomes. The good news is that the actions of the Minister for Police and the Premier are being seen through—not just in Ku-ring-gai but in communities across Sydney and New South Wales. Until resources are improved and Gordon police station is upgraded, I will continue to use whatever platform is available to highlight community safety concerns in Ku-ring-gai. The concern evinced at the meeting on Saturday is best summed up by Councillor Elaine Malicki, the local ward councillor, who attended the meeting and who was moved to hand out the phone number of the council's contracted security firm as a means of trying to address residents' concerns about the lack of police response to complaints of this type of activity. Under this Government we are seeing the privatisation of policing. Police resources are not providing the services they used to. People have to pay for those services. God help them if they cannot pay for those services.