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DOC changes undermine Cave Creek measures

11 April 2013

DOC changes undermine Cave Creek measures

Changes and cuts being made to the Department of Conservation (DOC) undermine measures implemented in response to the Cave Creek disaster, the Green Party said today.

The Commission of Inquiry into the 1995 Cave Creek disaster where 14 people were killed, said: “The department has been underfunded from the outset, with consequent difficulty in carrying out its statutory functions and duties”.

“DOC is being run down by the National Government and I am concerned that it will end up unable to carry out its statutory functions and duties,” Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage said.

“DOC’s current structure of field centres, area offices and regional conservancy offices reporting to the national office was established in response to the systemic failures which contributed to the Cave Creek tragedy.

“Changes made post-Cave Creek were made for a reason, and they should not be unravelled without serious thought into what impacts that may have.

“Staff numbers in DOC’s West Coast conservancy are being reduced to 111 full time equivalent positions. At the time of the Cave Creek disaster there were112.5 positions on the West Coast and the Commission of Inquiry raised serious concerns about resourcing.

“It’s very worrying that accountability will be reduced by the proposed new structure to split the Department into partnership and service arms and staff in one office will have to report to different managers in different locations.

“These cuts should be reversed as it is clear that little consideration has gone into the impact they will have on DOC’s ability to do its job to protect our precious places and species and to ensure it can fulfil all their duties.”

Permanent staff in DOC have been cut from 1,906 in 2009/10 to 1,639 in 2011/12. When DOC was established in 1987 it had 2,300 staff according to the Commission of Inquiry’s report.

The Commission of Inquiry into Cave Creek said: “No government organisation can do its job without adequate resourcing. In my opinion, it is up to governments to ensure that departments charged with carrying out statutory functions for the benefit of the community are provided with sufficient resources to enable them to do so. Here, the evidence is clear that the Department of Conservation lacked and continues to lack those resources. For future safety that must change.”


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