24 Apr 2013

DoC staff worried cuts may lead to another disaster

9:07 pm on 24 April 2013

A leaked document from the Department of Conservation shows staff are worried restructuring and job losses could lead to another disaster like Cave Creek.

Thirteen teenagers and one DoC staff member were killed when a DoC viewing platform at Cave Creek near Punakaiki on the West Coast collapsed in 1995.

The department says it has received more than 1000 submissions from staff about its plan to restructure, cut 140 jobs and merge its 11 conservancies into six to meet an $8.7 million savings target.

A report obtained by Radio New Zealand sent from DoC's head office to staff says in those submissions a large number of staff raised concerns about the proposals.

It says the biggest worry is there will not be clear accountability under the new model that could lead to another Cave Creek.

However, the report says a huge amount has changed since that disaster and lessons about accountability will not be lost.

Protest outside Parliament

About 140 people gathered outside Parliament in Wellington on Wednesday to protest against the staff cuts and restructuring.

The rally was organised by environmental group Forest and Bird and public sector union, the PSA.

Forest and Bird spokesperson Kevin Hackwell said if the Government can increase the budget for tourism promotion by $158 million, it should be able to find an extra $8 million to fund the department that protect the places tourists visit.

"We're saying they could just make $150 million, give the $8 million to DoC and we'll keep the frontline staff who are doing the specialist protection work, who are working on the tracks and the tourist facilities that we have in our national parks, etcetera.

"It's really important that we keep this stuff going."

Mr Hackwell said protesters held balloons and stood on the lawn at Parliament spelling out the words "love DOC".