DOC to lose 18 staff in south

19:17, Sep 06 2011

Eighteen jobs have been cut from the Department of Conservation's Invercargill office, leaving 38 employees in limbo as they wait to hear whether they will be kept on.

Southland conservator Barry Hanson confirmed just 20 of the 38 service jobs in the regional office would remain following DOC's announcement yesterday that it was cutting 96 jobs nationwide.

The cuts follow the Government's announcement in 2009 that DOC's budget would be cut by $54million in four years.

This has also led to the establishment of three hubs in Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch, where service jobs will be created.

These service jobs include roles in legal, planning, science, technical and communication positions, but not rangers.

Mr Hanson said all staff with service positions would need to reapply for their jobs within the region or those available in other regions or the hubs.

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The mood was sombre in the office following the announcement yesterday, but the cuts were necessary to make the department more efficient, he said.

"It is pretty quiet here, [but] we have got to be effective and efficient to be successful."

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said the job cuts were "particularly difficult" to understand because Southland had such a significant amount of conservation land.

The south was already reeling from the proposed cuts of 63 jobs at the Invercargill branch of the Inland Revenue Department and the conservation cuts would "hurt", he said.

"This is a really deep cut for the south and I think there will be a very strong public reaction against this," Mr Shadbolt said.

The Invercargill City Council would make a "very strong" submission on the issue and he believed other councils in the south would take a similar stance, he said.

The union that represents about 1500 of the department's staff, the Public Service Association, said the changes would undermine DOC's effectiveness rather than enhance it.

"Ultimately, it's the New Zealand public that loses out from these ongoing cuts. Government departments cannot keep doing more with less.

"Like any other business, there comes a time when they can only do less with less," PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said.

Job losses were also tipped for next year from the department's conservancy and area offices, she said.

However, DOC director-general Al Morrison said by moving the support staff from a regional base into professional hub groupings, the department would be able to provide more cost-effective systems and would gain a stronger national focus to its work.

Mr Hanson said he was unsure what the next stage of review would be.

The rest of the organisation would be looked at within the next two years, he said.

Redeployment of jobs and redundancies will take place in the next six months.

The Southland Times