Shrinking Values - Increasing Profits

The way WIRES is managed is not the way its supposed to be managed. WIRES has become obsessed with donations and with prestige. This has changed much in the way it does things.

WIRES structure

Before 2007, WIRES was governed by its State Council - a group made up of representatives from the branches. In 2007 some members of the Council had the constitution changed. Power now shifted from the Council to a newly created Board. That Board has been in power ever since.

The new structure was simple enough:

  • Volunteers join branches
  • Branches vote one member to represent them on the State Council
  • The State Council votes some of its members on to a Board

One of the first things the new Board did was allow unelected sub-committees, called "Standards Teams", the right to vote at Council. These teams were appointed by the Board: No one knew who was on them, the Board refused to divulge that information, and no minutes were produced. In a half measure of fairness, these Teams could vote at Council but their representatives were still forbidden to sit on the Board.

Then the Secretary of WIRES, Merillee Verhoeven, was kicked out by her branch (not for the first time) in 2010. The Board immediately changed the rules to allow representatives of Standards Teams to sit on the Board. She then became the new representative for one of those Teams - coincidence? She is still the Secretary today even though her branch voted her out. And in 2012 it happened again. A very unpopular Board Member, Mike Jupp, was kicked out almost unanimously by his local branch. He miraculously reappeared as a representative on one of the unelected, board-appointed teams and he is back on the board. Many members of WIRES think this is grossly unfair but what can they do when the Board changes the rules to suit themselves?

Government puts WIRES first

Once the Board had power they began to influence key personnel in the Department of Environment, especially the head of licensing at the Office of Environment and Heritage, Ron Haering. Through this influence WIRES had changes made to the licensing system for wildlife rehabilitation.

Before the Environment Department changed the system in 2010, wildlife carers had a choice: They could join a group like WIRES, or they could obtain an independent licence. After the Government changed the rules everyone was forced to join a group. The government made one other change at this time: They limited the number of groups in any area to only one. This gave WIRES a monopoly across most of NSW. Now, if you wanted to look after wildlife you had to join WIRES. This was great for the public servants at the Department because now they didn't have to process licenses and they didn't pay for it - WIRES paid for it. More correctly: WIRES' donors paid for it! This was great for WIRES because now it had control of its members' licenses and they could use that to keep them silent.

WIRES puts itself first

WIRES was now obsessed with becoming the only wildlife rescue group in NSW. Their aim was to become a statutory authority like the RSPCA or the Game Council. They measured their success by the numbers of members they had and the amount of money they got in donations, rather than the quality of care they provided to wildlife. This was a problem because their volunteers were still focused on what was best for animals.

The Call Centre gets outsourced

dmlSince WIRES began, the call centre was manned by trained and experienced volunteer rescuers. The new Board got rid of them. The experienced volunteers were replaced with telephonists - working only business hours and with no training or experience in wildlife rescue. Paid staff were easier to control and now their main job was to take down callers' details so WIRES could send out begging letters later. Money was everything and with all this new staff they needed even more money. The then Chairman told the State Council that WIRES had to employ more fund-raisers to pay for the extra staff - a vicious cycle had begun. WIRES has hundreds of trained and experienced volunteers but they refuse to use them. At one Council meeting the General Manager celebrated the nearly $800,000.00 WIRES had gotten from dead people's estates - she thought this was a great success. At the same meeting she blamed the volunteers for the problems at the call centre.

Since the WIRES Call Centre was "professionalised", WIRES volunteers have reported a dramatic increase in the number of emergency calls going unanswered and the number of animals dying while waiting to be rescued. At the same time WIRES has been reporting increased profits - over $2,000,000.00 a year. Some animals are never rescued while others wait 10 hours or more, and sometimes they wait days, before a rescuer is notified. Many thousands have likely died waiting for someone to rescue them. WIRES is supposed to prevent this from happening - not facilitate it.

Image is everything

WIRES members have resisted the new changes and tried to get the focus back onto animals. But any member who questions the new values in WIRES or speaks up about the suffering and deaths of wildlife is seen as a threat. They are a threat to WIRES' most precious thing - its image - essential for getting donations. Also, if it was revealed that WIRES was unable to do its job properly then it would have no chance of becoming the only wildlife group in NSW. WIRES protects its image at all costs. Rather than address the problem and make sure animals are not left to suffer or die, WIRES targets any member who raises concerns. WIRES starts an investigation and then expels them, sometimes on trumped-up charges. These investigations are always in secret - not the accused or anyone else is allowed to know what the allegations are based on. WIRES has gone so far as to send in private investigators costing over $20,000.00 each time - that's your money they're spending! Most unfortunate for the poor volunteer, because of the government rule changes, his licence belongs to WIRES so he loses his licence too when WIRES kicks him out. And since WIRES is the only group around, thanks to the government, he has nowhere else to go. The volunteer's career in wildlife care is over for good. This situation has kept many wildlife carers silent about what is really going on in WIRES.

You can help.

Send the NSW Environment Minister the message using our on-line letter - it takes 10 seconds!



WIRES Volunteers - Broke & Leaving

broke and leavingMembership is plummeting.

Over the last few years WIRES volunteers have been resigning in disgust. Some estimates reckon WIRES has lost nearly 50% of its membership. Something is very wrong.

Find out why the members are leaving