More 'partnerships' for Doc in Dunedin

Forty-one new Department of Conservation roles have been created to build more of the public-private partnerships that were central to the department's 2013 restructuring.

The Dunedin office is the next stop for the changes, after they were trialled in Nelson last year and rolled out in Central Otago last month.

Changes would come to the North Island later this year, Doc said. Dunedin-based partnerships director Barry Hanson said the overall number of jobs nationally would not change, nor would there be any redundancies.

The new roles would be Doc ''partnerships'' directors, managers, and rangers.

Doc already has other partnerships employees.

The new roles would increase the focus on encouraging local businesses and community organisations to take on conservation projects.

''We don't have to do all the conservation work in New Zealand. We don't have to get all the funding,'' Mr Hanson said.

''If we can facilitate or support a business or a council or whatever to take on more of the work themselves, then that's just as good as us doing it.''

Mr Hanson disagreed the most recent changes were an about-face from Doc's 2013 restructuring.

''What I'd say is it's just aligning ourselves,'' he said.

''You know, you take a step, as we did, and then, invariably, you take a few more small steps, subsequently, to get the approach to work appropriately.

''I'm more forward-looking to what we want to do rather than saying `since 2013 things have changed and the environment's different'.

''So we've got to keep on aiming at something, not thinking about how we would've worked two years ago.''

But Labour conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson and her Green Party equivalent, Eugenie Sage, said that was exactly what the most recent change was about.

''This restructuring is a recognition that the previous restructuring was a dumb idea,'' Ms Dyson said.

She said Doc remained ''significantly underfunded'' - a problem it seemed to be trying to solve by focusing on public-private partnerships.

But Ms Dyson said the changes seemed like a step in the right direction overall.

''While [the new structure] has quite a strong focus on getting money and work in kind, [it] is much more about getting people back into the regions,'' she said.

Ms Sage remained sceptical about the benefits of the latest changes.

''They say it's about a greater community partnership, but what it's meaning is a lot of the technical work is being offloaded on to the community.''

The Public Service Association union's Doc organiser, Chris Ollington, said employees had been subject to several structural and organisational changes over the past few years and were ''change-weary''.

He said a lot of the issues were ''coming out of the [2013] restructuring''.

Some union members saw the change as a lost opportunity to fix other issues, although Mr Hanson declined to specify what those issues were.

But, he said, ''Doc definitely is moving positively in the right direction. We're trying to work constructively with Doc.''

carla.green@odt.co.nz

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