Leaving presents for Department of Conservation's former director-general Lou Sanson cost more than $5000

  • 16/12/2023
Lou Sanson.
Lou Sanson. Photo credit: Lincoln University

The Department of Conservation (DoC) spent more than $5000 on leaving presents for ex-director general Lou Sanson, documents show.

It splashed $4584 and $575 on separate farewell taonga in January last year, according to documents from the 2021/22 annual review of the department released by the Environment Select Committee.

When asked by the Environment Committee what policies were in place in the 2021/22 financial year on giving gifts to staff, DoC responded that presents "should be reflective of the occasion or event and not be lavish or excessive".

"Whatever happened to the usual whip-round of the staff? The cost of the parting gift is staggering," said Oliver Bryan, the Taxpayers' Union's investigations coordinator.

"This clearly shows that the organisation is still imbued with a culture of disrespect for taxpayer money."

Speaking to Newstalk ZB Plus, Sanson said: "I had no idea of the value of the gifts and understood [they were] from staff and ministers". He added he'd suggested returning the presents after learning DoC footed the bill for them, noting he "played no part" in the spending. 

The department has since hardened its staff gift policies.

Sanson's presents were given the green light by former senior leadership members who had since left the department, current director-general Penny Nelson told ZB Plus.

Sanson stepped down as DoC director-general in 2021 following eight years at the helm.