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DOC job losses concern for conservation

21 April 2008

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use


DOC job losses concern for conservation

The implications of changes in the structure of the Department of Conservation will be watched with caution, Forest & Bird says.

DOC today announced the loss of 56 positions, including the loss of three marine scientists and six technical science positions.  Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says that while he can understand the need for Government departments to stay within budgets, any job losses in conservation were of concern because DOC is already under-funded to carry out its core conservation work.

“At a time when there is increasing pressure on public conservation lands through the growth of tourism, the spread of pest species, increased development and climate change, reducing the number of staff can only increase that pressure”.

“DOC staff work incredibly hard on increasingly tight budgets and achieve some excellent results.  While some of the positions will now be carried out on contract, any loss of capacity to a department which is already working within very tight funding constraints will be extremely challenging for remaining staff.”

One area which Forest & Bird will be watching closely is the disestablishment of DOC’s marine conservation unit and the transfer of its work into the mainstream operations of the department.

“We look forward to seeing renewed effort by the department in marine conservation, and better performance in this very important area of its work protecting threatened marine habitats and species such as Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins and New Zealand sea lions,” Kevin Hackwell says.

The transfer of DOC’s role in protecting border biosecurity to Biosecurity NZ will also put increased pressure on Biosecurity NZ to perform better in protecting New Zealand’s native plants, animals and natural places from imported pests and diseases.

“DOC has been a valuable independent voice in the protection of our indigenous biodiversity, and we are concerned that this role will have to be picked up by non-Government groups like Forest & Bird.”

Kevin Hackwell says much of the $8 million “overspend” that forced DOC to rein in spending was the cost of an unusually high number of fires due to drought conditions in conservation areas, which DOC staff had to put out.  Rather than having to fund this extra firefighting from its core conservation budget, DOC should receive contingency funding for fighting fires, Forest & Bird believes.

In the 20 years that DOC has been in existence, the area of land it manages has increased by nearly 50% and the amount of work it does in protecting threatened species has also substantially increased, yet its staffing levels have not increased.



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