DoC Staff Striking during Conservation Week

Written By: - Date published: 11:48 am, November 3rd, 2015 - 30 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment, uncategorized - Tags:

How far removed from a ‘cloth-capped mob of union-stirrers and industrial saboteurs’ would the staff of the Department of Conservation be? These people would have to be among the most valued and generally respected public sector workers in the country. And now they are reduced to this.

DOC staff to take industrial action as Conservation Week begins

1500 Public Service Association (PSA) members working at the Department of Conservation (DOC) have overwhelmingly voted to take industrial action starting on Wednesday, the middle of New Zealand’s Conservation Week.

Erin Polaczuk, PSA national secretary, said “It is time for DOC to start valuing the staff who fight every day to make 100% pure a reality.”

“DOC staff don’t take action lightly, but they are finding it increasingly hard to continue to do their jobs when their employer doesn’t value them.
“The offer from DOC management was rejected overwhelmingly with 95% of the vote against it.

(Hat tip to Scoop.)

This is a direct consequence of the way Al Morrisson disrupted the organisation with a spectacularly incompetent re-structuring and the on-going contempt this government has treated them with. I’m not pulling this statement out of my arse – friends of mine are insiders.

Yesterday I made this comment:

It’s estimated that about 200,000 New Zealanders will go tramping at least once a year, and a similar number of hunters and/or anglers. In my experience most are pretty down to earth people who put a high value on our Conservation Estate. And again I’ll make a punt – a large majority of these outdoors people would be more likely to vote left than otherwise.

And certainly the vast majority of these voters would like to see DoC better funded. Much better.

There you go Labour – a relatively clean up and down issue that will get you votes.


In support of this contention here is a thread on a popular site on the same topic:

Ok so it’s a very small sample – but I guarantee you – in my experience, also very representative. It’s long been my contention that the people who spend the most time in the Conservation Estate are the ones who value it the most – and are the ones most likely to act on that motivation. And into total there must be 500,000 odd people who will be paying attention to this. Here is a straightforward issue for Labour to make a stand on; that National have spent seven years neglecting and de-valuing the work of DoC and they will turn this around.

You can point to the legacy of Helen Clark even, whose leadership and example certainly didn’t see 95% of Department staff voting to strike.

30 comments on “DoC Staff Striking during Conservation Week”

  1. vto 1

    95% of an entire government department?

    Voting to strike?

    That has to be a first ……….. come on labour, step up and make hay


    meantime in moneyland, the government has set aside $400,000,000 to fund environment-destroying irrigation schemes


    the right wing nutter ideology is destroying New Zealand

  2. maui 2

    That’s great to hear the staff showing solidarity. A couple of concerning things I’ve heard is that the restructuring can take years for the staff to adjust to, that’s if it can work properly at all with staff split into doing the real ground work and others working in marketing, business relationships, and volunteer workers.

    The other issue is the guru people within Doc nearing retirement that just quit instead of putting up with reapplying for their jobs and going through a pointless restructure.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      The other issue is the guru people within Doc nearing retirement that just quit instead of putting up with reapplying for their jobs and going through a pointless restructure.

      Tick. One of my mates did just that. Bloody sad to watch – this was a man I’d looked up to most of my life and to see him treated like that left a bad taste.

  3. weka 3

    hmm, that PSA press release is pretty light on detail. Is that normal?

  4. mickysavage 4

    I spent the weekend on Great Barrier Aotea and saw a few DOC campsites over there. They really are jewels but the DOC estate has huge pressures that need to be addressed.

    I see MBIE is also going on strike …

  5. tc 5

    Good post RL when are kiwis going to wake up to the rampant pillage of our environment and wilful deconstruction of our public services ability to look after it.

  6. M. Gray 6

    When are NZers going to wake up National will sell and privatise everything they can they are already making inroads into our Education system.

  7. ExRaynja 7

    My partner resigned from DOC earlier in the year, after 15 years. They started as a vollie and finished as planner with responsibilities for a third of an islands biodiversity spend. Within a few weeks of them leaving, their former manager, their current manager, and several other colleagues in the same office resigned, taking almost 75 years of experience with them.

    They were overworked and underpaid as a result of the most recent restructure – when I started at DOC in 2004 staff were paid 1/3rd less than the public service average and when I left in 2008 they were still paid signficantly less, and its only gotten worse as the perqs of the job (mostly light handed management and organisational culture and time in the bush) have been progressively eroded. Staff used to fight to attend fires and whale strandings for the extra pay for gods sake!

    Last month my partner did a talk at my eldest’s primary school using borrowed props from DOC as no one has the time to do school visits or other similar advocacy work, and with the centralisation of ranger services, rangers can spend more time in vehicles travelling than they do actual field work. The field work itself has been reduced to a bare minimum with the expectation that the public will pick up the slack, with the made up capacity now being spent on trying to wrangle effective conservation work from well-meaning but often far less effective volunteer groups.

    They almost struck just before last Christmas and were already working to rule up to that point, but were enticed back to the bargaining table, but obviously things didnt get any better. Good on them. The trouble with striking DOC staff is they are by no means essential personnel to the running of the country, unlike nurses, cleaners, garbos, cops, teachers et al. And, for the most part and circumstances have definitely changed over the last few years as the older staff have jumped ship, they were a dedicated and passionate bunch who cared too deeply for the work that they do to not be doing it.

    DOC has been consistently rated as one of the best regarded organs of the public service in polled rankings thereof. However they were/are basically over a barrell with regards to the effectiveness of striking but best of luck to them. Al Morrison left a turd sandwich for Lou Sanson and the rest of the organisation to digest and they are doing what they can, but the organisation is a hollow shell and whatever spark it had is almost extinguished.

    • RedLogix 7.1

      Thank you for this.

      And for all the service you and your partner gave to our nation. Those of us who are out there in the back country appreciate what you do for us enormously. (I know – there is always a minority of noxious idiots to put up with when dealing with the public – and that’s part of the job too.)

      with the made up capacity now being spent on trying to wrangle effective conservation work from well-meaning but often far less effective volunteer groups.

      That’s entirely valid – I believe volunteer groups can be a valuable part of the mix, but they cannot be effective on their own.

      Al Morrison left a turd sandwich for Lou Sanson

      I’ve heard only good things about Lou. I hope he gets a chance to turn this around.

  8. Ad 8

    Absolutely amazing people DoC staff.

    They also work really hard to ensure people don’t die.

    Like the Israeli troupe who tried to do the Routeburn by buying bin liners and poking holes in them for their arms and legs.

    Or the Argentinian who was told to turn back trying to do the Milford Track taking their airport wheelie bag and some jandals.

    Or the German guy we picked up who having finished the Caples was sitting in a shelter, in wet cutoff jeans, FFS, near the road but with no idea how to get back to town, going rapidly hypothermic.

    Or the DoC guys last week at least five k’s away from base on the Abel Tasman rebuilding a fallen section with a spade. Just a spade.

    If I ever become a squillionaire I’m just going to upchuck and manage a hut for free. Honest work with the best views in the world.

    Pay the field staff triple. I think they are utterly awesome.

  9. Tautoko Mangō Mata 9

    Al Morrison needs to be added to the wall of Shame along with all of the other hatchet wielders. How do these people sleep at night?

    • Ad 9.1

      They sleep at night in the top floor apartment overlooking Wellington Harbour,
      without a care in the world, between silken sheets,
      dreaming the great 1-percenters’ dreams,

      beside a companion

      whose beauty

      would make you weep

      with desire.

  10. Tory 10

    So under the CA4, 1 July 2012, pay bands were:
    BAND A. $32,632 to $44,149
    BAND B. $37,146 to $50,256
    BAND C. $42,246 to $57,157
    BAND D. $49,075 to $66,396
    BAND E. $57,439 to $77,712
    BAND F. $68,020 to $90,957 (I have gone up to F as this is generally the top band in area offices).

    With 23 allowances (wet time, obnoxious, over night, back country, diving etc.), flexible working hours, job sharing, redundancy (capped at $42,000, but more if employed prior to 1 July 1992), just what are the issues regarding pay and conditions that are have staff so undervalued?

    I have no issues arguing for more $ into conservation, I am a big user of National Parks and want to see more money in the conservation budget but this should be kept separate from the argument over pay and conditions as DOC staff are pretty well looked after.

    • McFlock 10.1

      and all that depends entirely on who and how many are on what band.
      So thanks, that’s nice, but irrelevant.

    • RedLogix 10.2

      See ex-Raynja at 7.0 above.

      Seem that as with almost all employee satisfaction studies – the money here is only a part of the story.

      • weka 10.2.1

        it would be useful to know what they are wanting specifically though. The PSA press release didn’t say. Do you know?

        • RedLogix

          I don’t know anymore than what the PSA have released. As you say it’s light on detail.

          But frankly – for the level of responsibility many DoC staff undertake – some of those bands Tory is quoting above look pretty lightweight by current standards.

          • DoublePlusGood

            I’m guessing they’re one of those swell organisations that has pay bands and then proceeds to pay everyone well below the midpoint of the band.
            Also, good luck retaining experienced staff in many of those job bands.

    • ExRaynja 10.3

      In 2008, a D-Band programme manager with 25 years on the job, 6-8 direct reports and a yearly budget of around a million dollars opex plus up to a few hundred thousand a year of new capital projects to manage, plus do boat ops plus do CIMS work in fire season and endless other after hours meetings with community groups could still only be on 55k, which was middle of the band at that time.

      My partner left the job this year in part because, with two children under seven and wanting to only work three days a week instead of five, DOC wouldnt split the role, or allow job sharing. Flex time was useful, she would arrive at work at 730am and work until 330pm but it was hard fought to do those hours. Job sharing and flex hours are fine on paper but pretty hard to actually get your managers to agree to. At 37 with an MSc and 15 years in the Dept and very highly rated in every performance evaluation, they were still on 50k pro-rated in a D-band role, again part of a team of two travelling between offices over 1/3rd of an island and divying up $4 million a year.

      Your comment that “DOC staff are pretty well looked after.” comes from a place of total ignorance, or if not, perhaps from knowledge of Head Office, whose staff have always been much better paid, role for role, than in the areas, conservancies and regions.

  11. Coaster 11

    The walking tracks down here on the west coast are in a bad state of repair. One only a short distance from a main town has numourous spots with danger tape covering parts of the track to warn people, in many cases its been there for 6 months or longer.

    Anyone remember cave creek, i hate to say it but i can see that happening again soon.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1

      The thing to do is to invite Cabinet Club members on sight-seeing trips, and stand well back 😈

  12. Lara 12

    It just breaks my heart to see our native species so under threat, our forests dying, and our dedicated conservation staff underfunded, underpaid, under-resourced and undervalued by this government.

    We have one of the most beautiful countries in the world and a truly unique flora and fauna.


    All my support to DoC staff. I donate whenever I can and look after the bush and beaches when I go… all the time.

  13. Alex Stone 13

    One per cent please 23 July
    How much does it take to run our country? Take a look at a website page from the Treasury titled ‘Total Crown Expenses by functional classification’, and you’ll see government spent $92.170 billion in the 2014 financial year.
    The big ticket items were $27.266 billion on social security. Fair enough – you gotta pay pensions, and look after the vulnerable. Next was $14.344 billion on health. Fair enough – you gotta take care of the crook people. Closely followed by $13.064 billion on education. Fair enough – we must educate our kids, and pay the teachers. So far, so logical.
    But scroll down to the bottom of the list, and you find $579 million spent on an un-identified ‘other’, and below that, the very smallest single line item, $538 million spent on environmental protection. Do some more digging, and you’ll find the budget for the Department of Conservation accounted for $430.8 million of that environmental protection spend.
    That’s 0.44 % of the total.
    Our environmental assets are more than important – they are a defining feature of our nation. John Key, in introducing Nationals environmental policy in 2008, said this: “National will never forget that New Zealand’s outstanding physical environment is a key part of what makes our country special. Kiwis proudly value our forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans. They are part of our history and they must continue to define our future.

    “Our environment isn’t just a bonus. It’s part of being a Kiwi. It underpins our enviable quality of life. It gives us an in-built edge over many of our economic rivals.”
    Now consider the 100% PURE campaign. It’s selling New Zealand’s unique proposition to the world of international tourism. You don’t see pictures of hospitals, schools, suburbs, or open cast mines in the billboards. You see stunning images of our natural world – almost all taken within the Conservation Estate.
    New Zealand has a very high level of land that is held as conservation estate – around 30% of our total land area. Or put another way, about 8 million hectares of native forests and islands and beaches and rivers and lakes and alpine land. Stunning stuff. Plenty of scope for those 100% PURE photographers. And plenty space to tuck away a tourist or two.
    There’s money in them green spaces too. Tourism earned $10.3 billion in the year ending March 2014 – or 15.3% of our foreign exchange earnings. In total, the tourism expenditure in that year was $23.8 billion. An overwhelming majority of those visitors were enticed by the splendours of our natural environment. Just like they saw in the 100% PURE posters and billboards. They came to experience that for real. Good on them.

    But then, don’t get too excited, says our leader.. Our Prime Minister, in the infamous BBC World’s Hardtalk interview by Stephen Sackur in 2012, said of the 100% PURE campaign, “It’s got to be taken with a pinch of salt.”
    This was the same interview where Key attacked the scientific rigour of the research of Dr Mike Joy, who had been revealing the truth about the poor quality of the nation’s freshwater ways.
    “He’s one academic, and like lawyers, I can provide you with another one that will give you a counterview,” said a clearly-cornered Key. So, in his mind environmental academics and researchers can be bought to give you the comfortable opinion. Nice.
    Previously, in 2009, British environment writer Fred Pearce, in a piece in The Guardian, announced his “prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community” to New Zealand, accusing this country of a “greenwash” for trading on an increasingly shaky notion of eco-credibility.
    We are slipping on this front, no doubt about it. In 2006, New Zealand stood at the top of the Yale University Environmental Performance Index, in which 178 countries are ranked on how well they perform on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems.. The Assessments are made in the areas of health impacts, air quality, water and sanitation, water resources, agriculture, forests, fisheries, biodiversity and habitat, climate and energy.
    In the 2014 listings, we were at number 16.
    So why then do we spend so little on caring for our greatest asset?
    It’s a mystery to me – and, I imagine to the huge majority of New Zealanders (79.2%) who want action on ‘environmental problems’, according to a Roy Morgan Poll of August 2014.
    How about a new campaign to sit beside 100% PURE? We could call it the ONE PER CENT, PLEASE initiative. That’s not asking for much – just one per cent of our annual spend on looking after the forests, the rivers, the mountains, and those who look after them in turn.
    But no. In the past few years, we have seen budget cuts for the Department of Conservation, and more than 150 jobs lost. Good people, doing good work. Now less of them must do it all with less resources. Why can’t we set aside just one per cent of government spend for this important entity?
    No-one who sets budget figures could refuse that, surely? It all makes good sense. It’s the ultimate in business and brand sustainability. It would also help future generations of our own citizens.
    Just ONE PER CENT, PLEASE. Ironic, isn’t it, to think this level of investment would be more that double what is currently being done. Puts things a bit into perspective.

    • RedLogix 13.1

      Well that’s so comprehensive it should have been the OP.

      all makes good sense. It’s the ultimate in business and brand sustainability.

      This. Even in the right’s own terms and framing – more funding for DoC is consistent and rational. What holds them back I suspect is an ideological and emotive distaste for anything that looks green.

  14. Sookie 14

    Ex DOC here. They just could not compete with market rates for Planners and after restructuring they didn’t want Planners anyway (I was on Band D, hey its gone up!). I will vote for anyone, including Act, that quadruples the DOC budget. Lovely bunch of selfless, hard working pragmatic people who do work that is far, far more important than the usual useless crap the government spends money on. It makes me furious.

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