DOC hits back at Greens' claims

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014

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The Department of Conservation (DOC) is rejecting claims a performance review indicates last year's restructure has not been well implemented.

The State Services Commission performance review released this week said although DOC was moving in the right direction, "much of the change implementation still lies ahead".

Green Party conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the review indicated the restructure was not working.

About 70 jobs were lost when DOC merged its 11 regional conservancies into six. The changes took effect from September last year.

Managerial roles cut in the restructure were returning in an "ad-hoc way out of necessity" and there was an increase in injury rates, Sage said.

"This report shows that National's restructuring and budget cuts have had a massive negative impact on the Department of Conservation," she said.

DOC director-general Lou Sanson said it was rated as "well placed" in seven out of 10 core functions.

The department was scored as "weak" or "needing development" on 14 out of 17 criteria in organisational management, including structure, roles and responsibilities.

The reviewers said DOC needed to ensure staff understood their roles in the new structure and although DOC was "headed in the right direction . . . much of the change implementation still lies ahead".

DOC manages concessions and permits for a range of activities on the conservation estate, but the review noted user experiences were "mixed".

While new technologies had streamlined some processes, such as online applications for hunting permits, in other areas, including concessions, the process was described as "clunky" and inefficient.

The report also noted there had been six serious harm incidents with staff in the previous year. It had also been prosecuted for a fatality in November 2012 after the death of a volunteer on Raoul Island.

The reviewers said the department needed a "culture change towards an expectation of a no-injury workplace", which Sanson said was being implemented.

"The safety and wellbeing of staff is a very high priority for me - we have started a new programme which aims to ensure all staff return safe home every day," he said.

With responsibility for one-third of New Zealand's land area, the reviewers said DOC did not have the resources to "satisfactorily maintain all of this land", which had led to internal prioritisation and a focus on partnerships.

The review said it was too soon to tell whether the strategy would play out, "but it was clear that business as usual was no longer an option".

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The department's restructure was expected to cost about $13 million, but that was anticipated to be recouped through savings over three years.

- The Press

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