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Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai

Palmerston North Office


Private Bag 11010, Palmerston North 4442
www.doc.govt.nz





OIA-14-E-111


18 June 2014


Mr Jordan Williams
Executive Director
New Zealand Taxpayers Union Incorporated
PO Box 10518
The Terrace 6143
Wellington


Dear Jordan


OFFICIAL INFORMATION REQUEST AUSTRALIAN CONTROLLED BURNING

Thank you for your letter of 24th May 2014 asking for additional information and seeking
clarification on various matters raised in my previous letter to you.

I apologise for not acknowledging your letter of the 20th May; it was an oversight caused by the
overlap in that letter and your letter of the 24th. Both letters have been treated as additional
requests for official information.

1.0 Questions asked in section two of your letter of 24th May.

The department has taken advantage of the opportunity to be involved in the Victoria
(Australian) fuel reduction burn program to broaden the experience base for staff involved
in fire fighting. The acquisition of controlled burning qualifications, although necessary for
issuing permits to farmers for land clearing purposes, was incidental to the main objectives
of developing leadership qualities of our crew leaders in high stress situations, enabling
staff to experience a variety of fire behaviour in a controlled setting, applying fire control
and suppression methods in different circumstances and generally allow staff to experience
the intensity associated with large fire events and practise the appropriate responses.

The same scale and intensity of fire is rarely experienced in New Zealand. Fires are
generally of short duration and it is difficult to get the experience that comes out of the
involvement in the Australian fuel reduction burn program. On those occasions when large
fire events do occur in New Zealand the experience gained in Australia has proven to be
invaluable.




2

To specifically answer the questions you have asked;
(a) As stated above the departments staff are required to write permits for farmers
wishing to utilise fire as a method of land clearance within the one kilometre fire safety
margin of Public Conservation land. These are primarily small areas of vegetation
cover on private property and do not provide the opportunity to develop the skill sets
to the required levels.
(b) With the reduction in the use of fire as a land clearance method the number of people
with these skills is declining and involvement in the Australian fuel reduction burn
program is seen as the most effective way of maintaining the skill sets at an
appropriate level.
(c) As described above the Departments staff do write permits for burns on private
property and will assist if the property owner is agreeable. These opportunities can be
used to compliment the Australian experience, but do not provide the experienced and
expert levels of instruction and supervision that is available in Australia.
(d) Training to the same level is not available in New Zealand.
(e) No, because it is not readily available in New Zealand.

The training available through the fuel reduction burn program is also relevant from the
point of view that the department is often requested to provide fire fighters for
deployments to Australia, Canada and the United States of America. The experience gained
in Australia enables the staff to operate safely and effectively in these countries in what can
be, extreme fire environments.

2.0 Section Three of your letter of the 24th May Additional Requests.
(a) The documents mentioned in my previous letter are attached.
(b) I have enclosed the expense summaries for 2012 and 2014 which shows the breakdown
in costs for each year. For the 2014 year you should add $52,800 which is the
allowances cost calculated at the rate of $200 per person (22 staff) for twelve working
days of the training exercise. In addition, the amounts to be recovered from the
Australian Agencies (they subsidise our involvement) is not shown and is $67,200 for
the 2012 year and estimated at $52,800 for the 2012 year.
(c) The cost of staff time is shown on the attached expense summaries ($76,057 for 2012
and $103,828 for 2014). Salaries are calculated on the basis of individual hourly rates
which will vary across the staff involved and the provision of a daily allowance in lieu
of overtime and other allowances in the collective employment contract which
amounts to $200 per day worked.
(d) Yes, staff time was included in the figures provided in my earlier letter with the
exception of the 2014 figure which was provisional at that time.

Kind regards



Damian Coutts
Director Conservation Services
Lower North Island