Auckland Council has lost more than half of its community development staff in a radical cleanout that has cut many of its longstanding links with community groups.
The restructuring, which took effect on October 1, has cut costs by $2 million a year by reducing community development and safety staff from 101 in the middle of this year to 76 once the new "Community Empowerment Unit" is fully staffed.
But community development, arts and culture manager Graham Bodman said only 43 of the 90 staff who were still employed by September 30 had won jobs in the new unit, along with four new staff recruited from outside.
He said the other 29 positions in the new unit, including 13 out of 18 "strategic brokers" who will work closely with local boards, were still vacant.
South Auckland staff appear to have been especially hit. One former staff member, who worked in community development for 14 years for the old Manukau City Council and then Auckland Council, said only five of the 23 former Manukau-based staff had survived the cleanout, although Mr Bodman said 11 of them survived.
"I actually applied to leave because it was not an approach that I was going to go forward with," the ex-staffer said. "I thought it was a move towards business versus being about the people."
Another former Manukau worker, also with 14 years' experience with the two councils, was told he had missed out on a job in the new unit just one week before his old job disappeared - and a week after his wife found out that she is pregnant with their sixth child.
A community development facilitator for Otara-Papatoetoe and a Public Service Association delegate, said the cleanout had cost the council many of its links with Pacific people. "Out of seven PSA members left out [in the Manukau team], five were Pacific Islanders," he said.
Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board chairman Fa'anana Efeso Collins said the new model was based on reducing "hands-on" council staff and "empowering" local groups to support their own communities. But he said Pacific communities often did not have capacity to take over the council role.
Mr Bodman said that although some Manukau staff took redundancy, a majority of staff in West Auckland kept their jobs.
"It comes down to the individual's thoughts or their personal circumstances, and their skills and experience and their compatibility with the new model, and part of it came down to former legacy council recruitment and the structures they had in place. The new model is based on people having the flexibility to res-pond in a much more responsive way," he said.
"There is a risk of losing institutional knowledge. At the same time there are opportunities to bring in new ways of thinking and new experience."