Taxpayer's money spent on 'junket' - Taxpayers' Union

The Department of Conservation has spent over $100,000 to send staff overseas to learn how to conduct controlled burn-offs, despite the practice not being used by DoC, a taxpayers' lobby group claims.

Fire-fighter fights wildfire Source: US ABC

The Taxpayers' Union says 47 DoC staff travelled to Australia this year at the taxpayer's expense to learn how to conduct controlled burn-offs - a skill that is not applicable in New Zealand.

DoC says the trip to Australia was about developing leadership qualities in the staff to deal with high stress situations.

However, the Taxpayers' Union says documents suggest the department was looking for an 'excuse' they could use for why they were sending staff members on the trip.

The documents also contained feedback from one staff member who made the trip admitting that the group didn't "really do much fire stuff", despite that being the apparent purpose of the trip.

"The documents reveal that DoC has been left searching for ad hoc excuses to justify this expenditure. Are DoC staff so well equipped that they need to send staff on training programs for things that only assist conservation in Australia?" says Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams.

This isn't the first trip DoC has made to Australia. The department previously sent 25 staff on a trip in 2012.

It's estimated the 2012 and 2014 trips have cost taxpayers $106,000.

DoC says the trip to Australia was about: "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 practice the appropriate responses."