100 DOC staff face the axe

More than 100 staff at the Department of Conservation are expected to lose their jobs this week.

The department will discuss its latest restructuring plans with staff tomorrow, and will make a public announcement in the afternoon.

Forest & Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said the latest cuts are expected to be significant, with frontline conservation staff to be laid off in favour of recruiting volunteers.

He said volunteers are crucial to conservation, but DOC has a unique role in protecting threatened plants and animals which are far from cities or towns.

"These remote areas are impossible for volunteers to reach regularly," he said.

"Low numbers of people do not mean low numbers of possums, stoats and rats - quite the opposite. There's no substitute for on-the-spot work by a paid and highly skilled staff member based in a remote but critical part of the country."

Mr Hackwell said the Government was putting "huge pressure" on DOC to cut costs, and the department's response would significantly undermine both its professional capacity and its ability to deliver good conservation management.

DOC's operating budget for the last financial year was $335 million, which was $25m less than in 2008.

"The price of constantly undermining DOC will be high indeed for our native plants and animals, and for generations of New Zealanders to come."

The Green Party says job cuts at the Department of Conservation will put wildlife at risk and undermine New Zealand's 100% pure brand.

Greens' conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said tomorrow's job cuts announcement will be an additional blow to the department.

"More than 265 jobs have been cut from the department since National took power."

Ms Sage said 96 positions were cut in the last restructuring, in 2012. She said the the job cuts will leave DoC without the expertise it needs, and blamed Budget cuts by the National Government.

"The ongoing job losses follow a $54 million cut in the Department's budget in 2009, and further funding pressure because of Government's singular focus on reducing spending.

"DOC manages more than a third of the land in New Zealand. Sixty per cent of New Zealanders consider conservation to be as important as education, health, and law and order."

DOC currently has 1807 permanent positions.

A spokesman for the department said in the last two years 120 jobs had been lost through reviews of the national office and regional administrative systems.


DoC and the rewriting of history

The PC approach to conservation by DoC is certainly there in spades.  I am aware of one operation to restore Weka to mainland New Zealand by importing birds from the Chathams.  The net effect of this was to provide a free trip to the Chathams for a few who, once they arrived, stocked up with food supplies to be returned to the mainland, any pretence on stewardship was dropped as soon as cameras were out of the way, and indeed several good feeds of weka were had while in the Chathams.  Many Government Departments would prefer that the realities of history were ignored in preference of adopting mythical and nonsensical re-invention of history.

DOC redundant

GJ Philip: Perhaps govt is wanting to kill DOC off and farm the work out to private contractors, leaving DOC to monitor performance and write standards, the same way that Minedu does things, and equally useless no doubt.

The beauty of this approach, from Wellington's viewpoint, is that they can get rid of people they don't like / aren't related to, in favour of their buddies / more efficient people. 

Ex-DOC workers say that DOC has become a haven for low-skilled cultural cadres who exist simply to protect customary rights, that have no conservation function whatsoever.

Perhaps the time has come for DOC to vanish? Look at its stance over the indefensible use of 1080 for so many decades, when it couldn't even admit that 1080 killed the very birds it was supposed to protect? 

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