8 May 2024

Chatham Islands DOC team could be halved

8:23 pm on 8 May 2024
Chatham Islands. September 2007.

Photo: Flicker / Ville Miettinen

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has proposed to reduce and restructure its Chatham Islands team.

The proposal would see the Chatham Islands team merged with the Wairarapa district, and the number of full-time employees on the islands halved.

Budget savings were not a factor in the change, DOC deputy director-general regional operations Henry Weston said.

"Although the proposed operating model would free up more funding for the delivery of more conservation work on the islands," he said.

Eleven people currently work full-time in the Chatham Islands District team.

Under the proposed restructure, there would be five full-time roles on island year round.

"Predominantly office-based roles would be based off-island as part of the wider district team, enabling the island leadership to more readily and regularly work with national office experts, improving planning and integration of effort," Weston said.

"The Chatham Islands are among our most important conservation places, and this work will help us deliver the best outcomes we can for this unique environment."

DOC staff feedback had indicated the islands' remote location, about 800km east from mainland New Zealand, had created challenges which were having a negative impact on their wellbeing, he said.

"This change is intended to improve the wellbeing, morale, and performance of DOC's employees on Chatham Island, facilitate connectivity between the local team and the rest of the organisation, and ensure all our work is strongly aligned with national and regional strategies, policies, and priorities.

"It would also strengthen our partnerships on island, building capacity and working in a more integrated way with imi, iwi, and key stakeholders on the islands," Weston said.

The proposal would see the reduced on island team bolstered by an additional seasonal team comprised of secondments, contractors, and volunteers over the summer months (October to April).

"This larger team (approximately 20 people) of highly skilled and motivated workers on island over summer will markedly increase the conservation outcomes delivered, for the same financial investment.

"It would allow us to focus our efforts on the busiest periods, making our conservation investment more effective with an operational model better suited to the unique challenges of the Chatham's environment," he said.

The proposal was currently out for staff consultation and was subject to change, Weston said.

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