10 Aug 2009

Ministry restructuring costs $1 million

9:50 pm on 10 August 2009

A restructuring of the Environment Ministry has cost almost $1 million. Papers obtained by Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act show $919,8722 has been spent on restructuring.

About two-thirds of the total was spent on office refurbishments, external reports and services around restructuring, including candidate assessments of existing staff and recruitment costs.

The cost includes $336,501 in redundancy payments for eight personnel, but Environment Minister Nick Smith says that is a relatively small price to change the ministry into a "first-class" agency.

The figures do not include the costs of a separate external report on involving "stakeholders" in decision making - which cost another $74,090.

Dr Smith says appointing former Treasury and Economic Development personnel into key roles will help the ministry get on top of environmental issues. He says the changes are necessary to deal with issues like climate change, water quality and the Resource Management Act.

However, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says it shows the Government's priorities are wrong. He claims important environmental programmes are being cut.

Chief executive Paul Reynolds says staff have dealt well with the change at the ministry, but some staff have told Radio New Zealand they have no clear understanding of what it means and morale has never been so low.