Page 2887 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (7.41): I might pick up where I left off last night. At the time that we finished up last evening, I was discussing personnel issues in the parks service. The anecdotal story we hear is that parks staff are struggling to support programs and park care groups, and that the groups do not see much of rangers these days as the rangers have such high workloads; they can really just pop in and out of events that are being held.

We said last year that as we move to protect some of the last remaining reserve areas in Canberra, there is going to be more work. Indeed, concerns in the sector are that parks and conservation staff remain stretched and are spending too much time on administration, and that the demands on them will only increase.

I appreciate the explanations provided in the estimates committee about how staff numbers do not relate directly to environmental outcomes, and I think that is a fair comment. I also acknowledge the minister’s comment that it is not just about rangers; there are field officers also. I would never assume that staff numbers would be the only indicator of outcomes. Obviously, how staff are utilised will play a significant role. But I do think, given that we have heard how stretched staff are, that it is important that we keep a close eye on how the human resources are coping with the workload.

When push comes to shove, we cannot expect miracles from people who are constantly overstretched. These people in our parks service, be they rangers, field officers or ecologists, are highly skilled people whose services we value. Their passion and skills need nurturing, especially if we are to retain good quality staff and reduce staff turnover.

On the note of rangers and field staff, one issue that I had been hoping the government would consider is the relocation of our non-urban parks staff back into the Environment and Sustainability Directorate, so that they could be managed within a framework of biodiversity and conservation, rather than through a lens of municipal services. Given that research and planning has already been tagged to move across to support the conservator, it makes good sense in our view to integrate the implementation teams with those writing the policy, so that we can maximise the feedback loops that could occur between these two groups of people. After all, rangers out working in our nature reserves are highly skilled, trained professionals who would have much to add to the development of policy. This idea was reflected in recommendation 156 of the estimates report.

Unfortunately, it seems that the government has decided not to grasp this opportunity. The government response to estimates states that the idea has been considered, and the “land management function will not be split between TAMS and the Environment and Sustainability Directorate”. The way this response has been framed demonstrates how the government has thought about this—that somehow it would be splitting the land management function, rather than it being about creating a team approach to biodiversity and conservation.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video