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.


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