DOC restructuring

March 27th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

The Department of Conservation will axe 140 jobs and reduce the number of conservancy regions in a department-wide shake-up.

Director-General of Conservation announced the cuts this afternoon after the proposals were put to staff around the country this morning.

The cuts include 118 regional management and administrative roles, as well as 22 operational roles including asset management, planning and inspection positions.

Less managers means more money for operations. Sounds good to me.

Of course there is a balance. Every organisation needs manager and administrators, but they tend to grow in every company and organisation and from time to time you do a restructure.

I am a huge fan of the work does, and the conservation estate they administer. But that doesn’t mean they are immune from the pressure to be as efficient as possible.

“DoC must adapt if it is going to meet the conservation challenges that New Zealand faces – even if you doubled DOC’s budget tomorrow we would still be going ahead with this proposal,” Mr Morrison said.

I think that statement is a massively important one – that this proposed restructuring would be put forward regardless of funding. That the sign of a chief executive focused on  improving their organisation.

I don’t know enough about the details, to critique it in depth. But Al Morrison is pretty respected for the work he has done as Director-General, and I am sure DOC with 1,200 staff can continue to deliver.

Of course for those staff directly affected, it is a tough time. No amount of talk about organisational improvement is consolation for a loss of job security.

22 Responses to “DOC restructuring”

  1. Brian Harmer (688 comments) says:

    If you take out managers, and if their tasks still need doing, you end up converting your front line subject experts into mediocre untrained part time managers. With poor management, you set up the organization to perform poorly and fail. It has happened in health, research institutions and universities. It will happen in DOC. Removing management turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy that the state sector can’t perform as well as the private sector. It makes sure of it.

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  2. wreck1080 (5,020 comments) says:

    It is very easy to justify this by saying they’d do it anyway regardless of funding cuts.

    But, there is no way of telling whether this is the truth and frankly , respected people lie and cheat all of the time so I judge by actions not words.

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  3. Kea (15,179 comments) says:

    DOC are not public servants. They have become the government (& tax payer funded) branch of Forrest & Bird. And F & B long ago was overrun by radicals.

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  4. bringbackdemocracy (466 comments) says:

    Any reduction in the size of our bloated public service must be a good thing.
    Less taxes through smaller government.

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  5. kowtow (13,237 comments) says:

    The endangered spieces that needs protection is the tax payer.

    There’s an awful lot more this govt should be doing to reduce public debt.

    Those Human Rights Quangos and overseas aid next please.

    I see there’s a big Pacific conference on in Auckland where the “independant” island nations have their hands out to the rest of the bankrupt world.

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  6. Ross Nixon (673 comments) says:

    Less managers, or fewer managers?

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  7. scrubone (3,791 comments) says:

    From the sounds of some of the feedback, many of these guys weren’t even managers anyway.

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  8. YesWeDid (1,085 comments) says:

    Pretty clear message from National that they don’t really care about the environment and that the ‘100% pure’ slogan is nothing but marketing spin.

    Tourism is worth more than $20 billion a year to us so cutting around $10 million a year from DOC is very short sighted.

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  9. Lance (3,830 comments) says:

    I heard some clown on the radio (didn’t catch the name) speaking of the likely redundant DOC workers being replaced by volunteers.

    “Image you are about to have surgery and you discover the surgical team are volunteers”…. WTF. Worlds worst strawman argument.

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  10. davidp (3,866 comments) says:

    Nick Smith gave Eugenie Sage a thorough kicking over this issue yesterday in question time. Well worth a listen. According to Smith, the redundant are mostly “fourth and fifth line managers” in regional offices. An organisation the size of DOC shouldn’t have so many tiers of management in its branches. That is just wrong.

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  11. skyblue (241 comments) says:

    YWD – 100% is marketing spin.
    Quite frankly I want to see more dirt in our environment as we need to exploit resources more. I am a bit unusual, I am just as excited seeing manufacturing plants (have well paid jobs and a lot export) as well as our splendid scenery.
    Tourism is not a way to having a booming healthy economy with well paid jobs. Tourism is minimum wage jobs.
    We need to have the right mix but I think too much effort is put into the 100% pure spin.

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  12. Mark (1,614 comments) says:

    So long as it is not one of those idiot management grad run programs where a bunch of people are made to reapply for their jobs, the good ones fuck off because they have options and the chaff remain, Fastest way to dumb down an organisation.

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  13. Komata (1,768 comments) says:


    Re: ‘They have become the government (& tax payer funded) branch of Forrest & Bird. And F & B long ago was overrun by radicals’.

    It’s easy to see why, as their ‘Statement of Intent’ (‘Department of Conservation Statement of Intent 2007 – 2010’)
    contains the following:

    ‘The Department’s key functions are described under the Conservation
    Act (section 6) and are summarised as follows:

    • manage, for conservation purposes, all land and other natural and
    historic resources held under the Conservation Act

    • advocate the conservation of natural and historic resources generally

    • promote the benefits to present and future generations of conservation
    of natural and historic resources

    • foster recreation and allow tourism, to the extent that the use
    of any natural and historic resource is not inconsistent with
    its conservation

    The ‘conservtion of ‘natural resources’ statement is an interesting one and would seem to trump the RMA and any other Acts which have the temerity to suggest that ‘natural resources’ should be actually extracted and used. This would also explain DoC’ staff member’s part in the recent ‘resource review’ fiasco, when they were very clearly working against the interests of their employer – the NZ Government.

    Based upon the ‘Statement’, it would seem that DoC staff can claim they are ‘only doing their job’; except that it would seem that ‘enthusiasm’ has become an obsession, aided and abetted by the various ‘pro-anything, anti government’ groups.

    Perhaps a reduction in DoC’s ‘power’ might not be be a bad idea?

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  14. Manolo (22,075 comments) says:

    Ought to be good, since Forest & Bird, the militant arm of the Luddites, is against it.

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  15. Ross12 (2,531 comments) says:

    The is a quote in the Dom Post from Nick Smith saying that when he was Conservation Minister in the past there were 200 less staff and $100mill less funding. Has the standard of the management of the Doc Estate changed that much in the intervening few years ??

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  16. Shunda barunda (4,191 comments) says:

    DOC are not public servants. They have become the government (& tax payer funded) branch of Forrest & Bird. And F & B long ago was overrun by radicals.

    That’s total nonsense.

    Doc was bloated up by the left under Labour for sure, but it still had some independence from the radicals. I would say that certain staff in DoC may have a more sympathetic view toward F&B, but not the whole organization in general.

    I have mixed feelings on this announcement. I’ve seen some shocking inefficiency from DoC middle management that really does need addressing, but I have also worked with other managers that have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single project simply because they hold values of not wasting taxpayers money. As an independent contractor it is clear to me that these staff are extremely valuable to the department, they have ethics, they work hard, and they are passionate about getting good results. My concern is that there is no guarantee that they will be the ones that keep their jobs, a lot of their work goes unrecognized or is deliberately played down by other staff that feel threatened by their performance.

    Another concern is that DoC will not be able to maintain their current recreational infrastructure which will lead to a massive reduction in service levels to NZers enjoying the conservation estate. This would be completely unacceptable in my opinion.

    If they don’t have a way to retain their best staff, the whole outfit will collapse in my opinion.

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  17. tvb (5,518 comments) says:

    The main thrust appears to be a reduction in the number of conservancies. That then means fewer managers and other overheads. In the days of easy communications roads and cars means we do note need an administrative region to be a short horse ride in size.

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  18. dime (13,021 comments) says:

    so to sum up the lefts argument. more 5th line managers means a better environment…

    bureaucracy always improves things! ALWAYS!

    its funny how the left support these managers. they just hate public sector managers! getting rich off the backs of workers blah blah

    it sounds to Dime as though this is the correct decision. Dime does feel for the people who are losing their jobs. No doubt most live in places where its not easy to find employment. i imagine a lot of them are quite passionate about what they do. it sucks but unfortunately, thats life.

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  19. Hodor (38 comments) says:

    FEWER managers!

    Less refers to something you can’t count, fewer to something you could count. Eg less salt, fewer grains of salt (not sure why you would count grains of salt but you get the idea)

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  20. Adele Keys (39 comments) says:

    The reality is the primary aim of these cuts is to save money , not to increase efficiency. Don’t get me wrong, saving money is not a bad thing and DoC probably could make changes to run more efficiently, but the reality is DOC is already substantially underfunded.

    The Auditor-General recently released a report which made this very clear:

    “In 2012/13, DOC will spend about $202 million on managing biodiversity. With the resources it has, DOC is able to actively manage only a small proportion (about one-eighth) of New Zealand’s conservation land and about 200 of the 2800 threatened species.”

    And on the importance of staff

    “Staff are vital to future success… DOC needs to ensure that its staff have the support and capabilities required to succeed in their new roles because they will be establishing more partnerships while implementing new prioritisation tools.”

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  21. clbleu (1 comment) says:

    I know someone who works at DoC. They seem to go through a restructure every year. The public only hear about the big ones. Some shiny-faced moron brought in to help with one recent restructure assembled the team where my friend works and asked if anyone had ever been through a restructure (using the chosen alternative label of course, like refocus or some such b.s.). I really feel for them, must be a terrible place. Shame, though as it does such important work. Like other undervalued professions, watch what happens when they stop doing what they do. As for the supposed managers that are being targeted in this latest savings drive, they must surely be the worst paid managers in NZ. On the plus side I think the whole challenge of managing our vast natural areas and all we value about them needs some radical new ideas and corporate NZ can and should have a part to play as long as it leads to better outcomes for biodiversity, the visitors (nz and foreign) and appropriate commercial operations.

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  22. PeterCooper (1 comment) says:

    I have worked with all three DGs since Cave Creek and it is easy to see how most of the comments above can be true even though they may apparently conflict.

    The work post Cave Creek created a structure built on heavily researched principles about how to organise people so that productive relationships can emerge. Some systems work was also done at the time but by the early 1990s it became clear that there was a huge missing element – the ability of the leadership to work on culture. The inability to understand that Judge Noble’s observation of “systemic failure” required this work is deeply distrurbing. DOC continues to kill people and the latest restructure will not change that. One can ask how the lessons of Cave Creek and the core principles that arose from that can be preserved at the same time as adapting to the changing economic conditions.

    The fact that a restructure is now necessary to respond to cost pressures is also a reflection of the absence of the right leadership work. Had the original work been built on, to create an adaptive organisation then productivty improvements would have followed and the organisation would have been a safer, more productive and cost efficient one. This was never going to be easy work because DoCs culture has always been resistant to change. It required the building of leadership capabilty that could rise to the challenge. There is a risk that DOC may be recreating a dysfunctional structure and avoiding the core underlying capabliity issue.

    Al Morrison’s work on how best to create value for New Zealand should be applauded. This needs to continue to be done because a public discussion about alternative ways to generate value is crucial to creating an environment where adaptability is encouraged. However, there is a desperate need to fill the gap in leadership work. The current approach has not created the leadership capability to continue to adapt and especially to create a safe, productive workplace. It unfortunately continues to generate much unnecessary suffering.

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