Spotlight on 34 city Doc jobs

Conservator Eimear O'Connell applies her art history and building conservation expertise on the...
Conservator Eimear O'Connell applies her art history and building conservation expertise on the newly rediscovered wall paintings in the Arrowtown Masonic Lodge. Photo by James Beech.
Up to 34 jobs could be affected at the Otago conservancy office in Dunedin if the Department of Conservation adopts a cost-cutting proposal, sources say.

However, Doc was quick to point out yesterday investigations into staffing levels were continuing and no decision had been made on which jobs, if any, would be lost.

The department is consulting its 1800 staff nationwide on plans to cut 102 jobs.

Dunedin staff are forbidden to discuss the proposal with media, but information leaked to the Otago Daily Times says cuts will come from office-based support functions at its national office in Wellington and regional conservancy offices, including Dunedin's.

It is believed 34 of the 40 permanent and temporary staff in the Dunedin office could be affected under the proposal, but it was not known if, or how many, individuals would lose their job or be moved to new roles.

"Dunedin is going to be badly affected and there will be a loss of jobs," one source said.

Jobs under the spotlight are those involving payroll, mapping, science, technical support, concessions and legal services.

"They are people who work in conservancy to support frontline delivery. These are people who create revenue for Doc by licensing commercial activities on public conservation land."

The staff review comes as a result of the budget pressures Doc is under, following the $54 million slashed from its budget over four years in 2009.

The department had about 100 vacancies after imposing a freeze in April on hiring new staff.

Otago conservator Marian van der Goes declined to comment on the proposal yesterday and referred the newspaper to Doc spokesman Rory Newsam, in Wellington.

He would not disclose details of the proposal until a final decision had been made.

However, he said the figure quoted to the Otago Daily Times was inaccurate and inflated.

He did not want the more than 130 staff working for Doc in Otago to be unnecessarily alarmed by "inaccurate material".

"Doc told its staff of about 1800 just over a month ago that it was looking to shed about 100 positions across the country to get more cost-effective support systems for its conservation work in the field.

"Doc wants to maintain its frontline conservation work and local area offices are not covered by this review.

"The roles under review are largely office-based functions in its national office in Wellington and its 11 regional conservancy offices."

Otago's area offices in Central Otago, coastal Otago, Wakatipu and Wanaka would not be affected, he said.

A final decision was not expected until early next month, Mr Newsam said.

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said it was still unknown how many jobs would go, but many members were under stress because of the uncertainty of the review process.

"The department says the job cuts will make its support services more cost effective and efficient, but PSA members believe the changes will impact negatively on conservation throughout the country and remove key staff from important local relationships."

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

 

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