DOC boss erred but is cleared

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014

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Southern South Island Department of Conservation director Allan Munn has been cleared of wrongdoing in an investigation into his actions, but he "should have withdrawn" from some decisions to avoid perceptions of a conflict of interest.

Te Anau hunter Dave Wilson last year lodged complaints with DOC against Mr Munn and Norman Macdonald, a DOC Fiordland district conservation services senior ranger.

Mr Wilson claimed that when Mr Munn was not working for DOC he was awarded DOC contracts because of his personal friendship with a DOC worker; and that DOC contracts were awarded to Mr Munn's family members and friends due to a personal friendship with DOC staff.

He also alleged Mr Munn victimised him because he reported Mr Munn's nephew, Jordan Munn, for unsafe handling of a firearm during a hunting trip to Secretary Island last year.

Mr Wilson claimed Mr Munn closed the door on him getting further contract hunting work with the department and told him he would never work for DOC again.

His complaints against Mr Macdonald centred on the hunting trip to Secretary Island in February last year. These included that Mr Macdonald failed to address his firearms safety concerns about Jordan Munn and did not ensure a safe environment for the hunting team on the island.

The investigation, carried out by former DOC human resources adviser Jan Samuel and DOC solicitor Geoff Hulbert, did not find any serious misconduct by the senior DOC staff members.

The findings said Mr Macdonald did try to address Mr Wilson's firearm concerns and did provide a safe working environment, "however, this was not to Dave Wilson's satisfaction".

They found no evidence of DOC malpractice in awarding contracts and said there was no evidence to suggest Allan Munn had manipulated the DOC tendering process when he was not a DOC employee.

There was also insufficient evidence to support the allegation Mr Wilson was not used as a contractor because he made a complaint about Jordan Munn to the police.

The investigation found that the hunting team on Secretary Island refused to work with Mr Wilson after the hunting trip.

The report says said Mr Munn considered Mr Wilson to be a good hunter but not a team player. This was the principal reason he chose not to use Mr Wilson as a contract hunter.

However, the report writers questioned whether there was a potential conflict of interest in Mr Munn making a decision relating to Mr Wilson.

Yesterday DOC conservation services deputy director-general Kevin O'Connor, while noting the findings, openly acknowledged there had been a breakdown in the relationship between the department and Mr Wilson.

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DOC accepted that communication with Mr Wilson could have been better managed and that Mr Munn "should have withdrawn at times from the process to avoid any perceptions of a conflict of interest".

"I will be talking to all staff to ensure these issues are addressed," Mr O'Connor said.

- The Southland Times

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