DOC denies kakapo staff may be axed

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2013
Kakapo
NEW THREAT?: The Department of Conservation denies that staff in the Kakapo Recovery Programme may be among the proposed 140 staff facing the axe.

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Staff members from the Kakapo Recovery Programme team have joined the rare flightless parrot on the endangered species list, an independent conservation organisation says.

Forest & Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said three staff members from the small team based on Cod Fish Island, working to save the kakapo from extinction, may be among the proposed 140 Department of Conservation staff facing the axe.

However, DOC said the claims made by Forest & Bird that the department was proposing to cut specialist and ranger support for its kakapo recovery programme were wrong.

Mr Hackwell said after further details of the proposed job cuts emerged last week, the kakapo team looked set to lose its dedicated programme manager, sole technical ranger and the sole dedicated scientist.

The programme employed 8.5 fulltime staff and the proposed loss of three of those staff would destroy the team's crucial scientific and technical skill base, he said.

"When the frontline staff cuts were announced last week, the Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith, gave assurances that they would not affect the conservation of our endangered species," Mr Hackwell said.

"This is clearly not the case for kakapo, and the same appears to be true for other endangered species recovery work around the country."

DOC Murihiku and Southern Islands area manager Andy Roberts referred comments and specifics of the review to the department's national office.

DOC director-general Al Morrison said field resources dedicated to the kakapo recovery programme had not changed.

"We currently have two programme managers overseeing 9.5 ranger positions and two kakapo-focused specialists working on our kakapo and southern islands field work," Mr Morrison said.

"Under the new proposal we will continue to have 9.5 ranger positions and two kakapo-focused specialists doing the same work."

The proposal was recommending one less management position for a 12-strong team, he said.

"The department thinks this is a sensible use of scarce resources that will not compromise the recovery programme.

"The kakapo recovery programme is an example of the flatter organisational changes DOC is proposing and Forest & Bird claims that specialist science and technical ranger roles will be cut are simply wrong," he said.

Mr Morrison said DOC was still consulting with its staff on the proposed new structure and would be considering feedback before making any final decisions.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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