DoC may cull more employees

By Laurel Stowell

Wanganui Department of Conservation staff will discover how many of their positions will be retained today.

Thirteen jobs in Wanganui were shed during the department's last restructure, when the head office was also moved to Taupo.

There are still 27 permanent and casual staff in the Whanganui Area, spread between Wanganui, Pipiriki and Taumarunui, community relations programme manager Jasmine Hessell said.

The department's Whanganui Area manager Connie Norgate was in Wellington yesterday, hearing about the new structure.

She returns to inform staff at a 9.30am meeting today, after which they will have three weeks to make submissions.

This time any cuts will affect frontline workers in conservation, rather than managers or conservancy offices.

"It's one of the most significant changes DoC has been through," Ms Hessell said. Whanganui staff were feeling insecure, and the past few months have been hard for them, a feeling Ms Hessell knows well - she had worked for the department for six years before being made redundant at its last restructure.

At the moment she is back on contract, until the end of June.

The latest set of changes is expected to be in place by then.

Forest & Bird and the Green Party made dire predictions about the restructure. Kevin Hackwell, Forest & Bird's advocacy manager, said DoC's budget was $25 million less than in 2008. There would be a high price for native plants, animals and future generations to pay.

The Green Party said more than 265 jobs had been cut from the department since National took power. Ninety-six positions went in the last restructuring in 2012. Today's announcement is expected to involve another significant slice.

"DoC manages more than a third of the land. Sixty per cent of New Zealanders consider conservation to be as important as education, health, and law and order," Green Party conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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