DOC confirms job cuts to Chatham Islands team

The Department of Conservation is going ahead with cuts to its Chatham Islands team.

In May, it announced a proposal to halve the number of permanent, full-time staff on the islands to five, and merge the Rēkohu Wharekauri (Chathams) team with the Wairarapa district.

Following staff consultation, DOC has now confirmed the merger but said the number of staff based there year-round will be reduced from 11 to seven, instead of five.

The changes were “intended to address existing issues and improve resilience in delivering critical conservation work”, DOC said in a statement.

It had previously said they were to improve staff well-being on the Chathams, and were not driven by cost-saving measures.

DOC had been directed by the government to make a 6.5 percent saving in the 2024-2025 financial year, which equated to $31.3 million.

It was hoped the changes would strengthen partnerships on the islands with imi, iwi and key stakeholders, DOC said.

“[The merger] will also improve connectivity between the local team and the rest of DOC, enabling the island leadership to readily work with national experts to ensure best practice delivery of work programmes, strongly aligned with our strategies, policies, and priorities.”

Minister Genter will be announced funding for two nation-wide initiatives to support more students to bike to school, at Titahi Bay School.

Rongotai MP Julie Anne Genter, whose electorate encompasses the Chathams, did not believe that would be the case.

“If you take workers out of the Chatham Islands and try to base them elsewhere in New Zealand and you have them fly in and fly out, the work is not going to be as good,” she said.

The Green MP had written a letter to Conservation Minister Tama Potaka on 21 May detailing her concerns that the changes would negatively affect biodiversity and the local community.

She said she was yet to receive a response.

“The range of bird species on the Chatham Islands actually outnumbers those on mainland New Zealand, so it’s super important that we are properly resourcing the conservation effort on the islands,” Genter said.

“The conservation effort isn’t just about the staff paid directly by government. It actually involves a whole lot of volunteers from the community and we have to be building that community and volunteer effort all the time.”

The on-island team will be bolstered by an additional seasonal team comprising secondments, contractors, and volunteers over the summer months (October to April), DOC said.

“While the new operating model is not being driven by funding or cost savings, this larger team of highly skilled and motivated workers on [the] island over summer will be able to provide the best conservation outcomes we can for this unique environment, for the same level of financial investment,” DOC said.

Genter said: “It’s great to have additional staff at certain times of the year but the Chatham Islands does have accommodation shortfalls at times in the summer, so it’s really important that the accommodation and transport issues are resolved.

“In a way, having a full-time presence is really critical to even be able to host an additional workforce,” she said.

DOC had previously said it would improve its staff’s working and living conditions as part of the changes.

Office-based roles will be located off the island, as part of the wider Wairarapa-Chatham Islands district team and the seven year-round staff remaining on the islands will share space with the Chatham Islands District Council.

All staff currently working in the Chathams and Wairarapa teams will have similar jobs made available to them, it said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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