DOC screens roles in bid to free up $9m
The Department of Conservation will assess the operational roles of 1200 staff across the country from early next year as it works towards saving $9 million a year.
The cost-cutting exercise comes after the department's restructure which saw the national loss of 96 jobs including 21 Nelson positions.
Conservationists are concerned the latest move will see an end to big back-country pest, weed control and unique protection projects as the focus shifts to popular destination sites.
Forest and Bird top of the south field officer Debs Martin said today community groups already worked to protect the accessible edges of the conservation estate.
"But the community cannot do pest control over the whole of Kahurangi National Park."
DOC spokesman Rory Newsam said analysis of the staffing, systems and infrastructure across the country's area and field offices was still at a planning stage.
Staff would be told of any recommendations early next year. He would not rule out the reorganisation of offices and workers.
The study was part of an on-going examination of the way DOC operated, he said.
Earlier this year DOC appointed commercial business development, outreach and engagement managers across its seven conservancy offices as it moved to partner with the community and commerce on conservation efforts.
Yesterday, Mr Newsam said DOC now looked to align its area and field office operations with its new management and conservancy operations.
"DOC's major focus is on working more widely with external partners. It is looking across the organisation to develop the best structure for doing that," he said.
External partners included local government, iwi, private landowners and business.
Mr Newsam said staff were told of the evaluation earlier this year.
"We are looking across the whole organisation and expect to be going back to staff with any firm recommendations for change early next year with the aim of bedding these in by the middle of next year."
The project was not at formal review stage and it was too early to say what the impact on staff would be. "DOC will look at all options before any staff or location changes are recommended but the department obviously can't rule these out," he said.
The scrutiny of staffing and spending was driven by DOC's streamlined income and signalled by the department earlier this year.
DOC's budget for this financial year was $335m - $25m less than 2008.
In 2009 DOC was told its budget would be annually capped at $13.5m less for the next four years.
This year (2012-13) it faced a further $11.5m reduction in Government income for the 12 months. Next year the reduction is around $8.7m.
Ms Martin said DOC's move to a community based model was commendable.
"But we are finding the large back-country projects are not being done."
Instead effort was being focused on low-risk destination sites as staff moved more into community liaison style roles which took people out of the field.
She said business and industry funded conservation, such as Solid Energy's work on the West Coast as part of its mining consent, was fine until the commercial budget ran out. "We are now seeing variations to Solid Energy's (conservation) programme."
Ms Martin said conservation alliances like Project Janzoon, the $25 million-plus 30-year programme funded by a private family trust to fight introduced pests and plants in Abel Tasman National Park, were great. But it highlighted her concern that only the "sexy" jobs would win under DOC's new commercial structure.
PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said the PSA was working alongside DOC on the review throughout all areas of the organisation but it was too early to say what the outcome would be.
"As in any restructure the PSA's aim is always to try to protect jobs and ensure quality public services are not undermined.”
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