New Zealand Police is beginning a roll-out of new purpose-built dog vans, following a successful four-month trial in the Waikato.
A prototype 206kW Škoda Superb Station Wagon was produced in late 2022 by Police partner Wade Group and trialled by operational dog units. The trial was a success; handlers reported the vehicle was more dog-friendly, user-friendly, and faster to deploy from.
Feedback from handlers did see tweaks to the “dog pod” temperature settings, reconfiguration of the storage compartments and changes to some of the vehicle controls.
“We’ve got a dog vehicle that’s more functional and robust for staff, and prioritises the welfare of our dogs,” says Inspector Brian Yanko, Manager for the NZ Police Fleet Service Group.
Other features, not present in the existing Holden dog fleet, include sensors that automatically switch on fans at a certain temperature, an air-conditioned section for the dogs, magnetic water bowls, and faster deployment features – meaning the vehicle is not left in a vulnerable state during an operation and the dogs can exit the vehicle quickly when they need to.
Between 15 and 20 vehicles will be deployed before the end of June this year, with a further 70 planned for deployment over the following 12 months.
There are approximately 127 purpose-built vehicles for delta units (Police dogs and their handlers) in the Police fleet, and many will be coming to the end of their useful life over the next couple of years.
“Both the Holden VF Utilities and Holden Equinox’s have been used over the last decade, and they have served us incredibly well,” Inspector Yanko says. “Since we need to look at replacing them, now is the time to make sure the next version meets the demands of the job. This has been done in collaboration with operational police dog handlers and the Fleet Service Group.”
New Zealand Police has had a fleet for its dogs since 1965. The original EH Holdens were built primarily as a prisoner transport vehicle but were soon transporting Police dogs instead.
The original vehicle worked in the Tairāwhiti district before being retired in the early 70s. It boasted a basic interior, and none of the functionality of its most recent version.
It was refurbished in 1986 and became part of the New Zealand Police Museum historic vehicle fleet after touring the country to mark the centenary of NZ Police that year.
Police selected the Škoda Superb as the new Prime 1 patrol vehicle after a rigorous evaluation process in 2020. Škoda has repeatedly been chosen for police and emergency services throughout Europe due to their reliability, reasonable running costs, spaciousness and performance.
All Škoda vehicles have held a five-star ANCAP safety rating, incorporating the most advanced safety equipment available to enhance driver capability and vehicle safety. Aside from the model used for Delta units, Police use three Škoda models as patrol vehicles – the Skoda Superb 162KW 2WD and the 206KW 4×4 as well as the Skoda Kodiaq SUV 4×4.