DOC staff not told to avoid meeting
Staff from the Conservation Department Southland Conservancy were not ordered to stay away from a meeting opposing the development of a tunnel and monorail in Fiordland, Conservator Barry Hanson said.
The issue was raised when Te Anau resident Ray Willett voiced concern his "friends who work for DOC were not allowed to attend the Save Fiordland meeting and speak as individuals".
It was 'a disgrace' DOC staff in Te Anau and Fiordland were not able to be heard despite working so hard to protect Fiordland's unique natural value, Mr Willett said.
There were more than 300 people at the meeting but DOC staff were noticeably absent, he said. "I've been told by staff members they were given a friendly reminder from the boss not to get involved."
Former DOC Southland Conservancy concessions manager Colin Pemberton, who urged a united community effort to oppose the projects, said since he was no longer employed by DOC he was not privy to any information within the department telling staff not to attend the meeting.
"I told Mr Willett I was no longer included in any department information flow but that there was every possibility he was correct in his assumption," Mr Pemberton said.
Any organisation that has people in the community who will be effected by issues should have a right as individuals to be involved in voicing concern, he said.
Mr Hanson denied he had issued any mandate to his staff to stay away and refrain from speaking out at the meeting opposed to the Fiordland Link Experience monorail and the Milford Dart tunnel.
Staff had a choice in what they did in their own time but, ultimately, a code of conduct was in place to uphold the integrity of the department, he said.
All DOC staff were governed by a public service code of conduct, where a key dimension was not to behave in a way that compromises their employer, he said.
"The department don't want the integrity of the public service questioned as a result of staff delivering inappropriate personal views, especially when due process is under way," Mr Hanson said.
He said direct contact and advice for DOC staff also came from the area managers in the regional offices.
Te Anau area manager Reg Kemper said it was a complex issue and he had advised staff to be aware of their responsibilities under the public service code of conduct.
"The staff live in the community and certainly care about Fiordland, so it is not easy," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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