Friday, 13 July 2018

The toxic culture within NZ's Department of Conservation

I can vouch for every word in this article.
DOC’s culture wars revealed

Two top scientists are lifting the lid on the Department of Conservation’s “toxic” culture. David Williams reports.

A culture war is being waged within the Department of Conservation, says a former DOC ecologist who claims he’s been hounded out of the job.
Nick Head, the 2013 winner of the prestigious Loder Cup for conservation, quit the department last month and is taking a personal grievance claim. He says there’s a corporate culture in DOC being driven by management, that seems unable to face the inconvenient truth that its core function is to advocate for conservation. Some bosses seem unwilling to fight to protect special, rare and threatened places in case it upsets “relationships”, he says. That’s causing friction with some scientific, technical and frontline staff.
There’s a culture war and there’s a lot of discontent.”
Head’s view, which he believes is widely shared within the department, is that DOC became highly politicised because it was seen as an impediment to the previous Government’s economic growth agenda. Some DOC staff became afraid to speak out or take a strong line.
Committed conservation workers, even if they’re highly regarded, are being pushed out, Head says, because they don’t fit the mould of the department’s new corporate ideals. “They make life so difficult for them, they either leave or they find reasons to force them out.”
Another Loder Cup winner, botanist Peter de Lange, left the department, disillusioned, in August last year, after being diagnosed with chronic stress. He thinks the department has lost its way, and that the country’s rare flora and fauna are on the brink of a raft of extinctions, much of it down to DOC’s ineptitude. He should know – De Lange was instrumental in developing the country’s threat classification system used since 2001.
The desire to listen to in-house expertise is gone. It’s much more important that we write plans and waste thousands and thousands of dollars on consultants developing so-called interface plans and task assignments than actually doing the job.”
As DOC considers the best way to save threatened species, De Lange says the department is haemorhagging the very experts who can help. Scientists and technical staff are leaving through attrition, retirement or because of the way they’ve been treated. “How on earth is it that we’re going to turn the tide of all of this biodiversity loss? Are we going to use consultants?”
Meanwhile, De Lange is worried for his former colleagues, so many of whom, he says, show symptoms of stress, such as “sleepless nights, anger, not being able to eat properly, bowel problems, heart palpitations”. He describes the management of Head, meanwhile, as a “travesty”, that has left his colleagues angry. “DOC at the moment has a mentality of protecting management. It’s all on you: if you do badly, it’s your fault; if your manager does badly, it’s your fault. There is now a widespread culture of fear amongst many of the staff.”
A view of a disgruntlement and disillusionment within DOC has been aired publicly before, what’s unusual is for it to come from its staff, especially scientists.

To read the article GO HERE

Clearly, while DoC bend over backwards to accomodate corporate interests they are not interested n consulting with the public

TBfree NZ will begin dropping 1080 poison in the Pīhanga/Kakaramea area southwest of Taupō in late July.

TBfree NZ has dismissed concerns from a Waikato Regional councillor about the lack of consultation over a 1080 poison drop this month.

Taupō-Rotorua-based Waikato Regional Councillor Kathy White feared people were unaware of the drop in the Pīhanga/Kakaramea area, southwest of Lake Taupō, and would not know to access an alternative water supply.

The drop is part of TBfree NZ's ongoing programme to control possums, rats and other pests.

White attended a meeting along with 30 other residents on June 13 hosted by OSPRI, the company that manages TBfree NZ. She said their biggest concern was about the water supply, with the bait possibly landing in streams.

White feared TBfree NZ had limited its consultation to that solitary meeting.

People living outside the poison drop area but who were within 3km of it are entitled to an alternative water supply, she said.

"The problem with that is that you have to know about it to ask for it.

"I think it should be a requirement that the pest contractor identifies all of those people. It shouldn't be that hard - it's not a huge area," she said.

An OSPRI spokesman said consultation for this operation had been ongoing since June 2017.

"The remaining landowners either directly affected or adjacent to the operation have been consulted with over the last three months regarding all aspects of the operation.

"Two drop-in information sessions were also held in the area. Consultation has included discussions around the use of water for domestic supply."

But White remained concerned about a lack of information regarding the drop's effect on streams.

"They say nothing in their literature that says, 'If you live outside the area, and if you're drawing water from a stream, you need to contact us.' "

White said drinking water can be contaminated in a number of ways during a 1080 drop - through baits being dropped directly into streams, from poisoned animal carcasses decomposing in waterways, and through 1080 dust landing on house roofs and being transferred to water tanks.

However, the OSPRI spokesman said research by Landcare and Niwa showed 1080 was highly soluble and quickly disperses.

"We know that pellet bait can sometimes fall into small waterways as the result of aerial application; however, research where bait was deliberately placed in small streams found that 1080 was undetectable in the water after only eight hours."

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