Lion Man loses bid for interim return to work
4:00AM Friday Dec 12, 2008
Lion Man Craig Busch has lost his battle for temporary reinstatement to his job at Whangarei's world-famous Zion Wildlife Park.
Busch, the star of television's popular Lion Man series, last week asked the Employment Relations Authority to order that he be temporarily reinstated.
He was sacked for alleged serious misconduct. Allegations against him include breaching safety rules, inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, performance issues, not keeping proper training records and causing loss of revenue by cancelling tours.
Busch and his mother Patricia Busch have been feuding over who owns the 42 rare lions and tigers and is responsible for running the park.
Last week, Busch asked the authority for an interim order to reinstate him to the wildlife park until his claim of unjustified dismissal against Zion Wildlife Gardens and Zion Wildlife Services is heard in January.
But authority member Yvonne Oldfield declined Mr Busch's application saying that given the case's background, she did not think Mr Busch would suffer an injustice by waiting until the full hearing in January.She said four of the park's seven staff members gave evidence to say they found Busch had become impossible to work for several had said they would resign if he came back to the park.
The authority heard Busch was originally the sole shareholder and director of Zion Wildlife Gardens and Zion Wildlife Services, which set up Zion Wildlife Gardens on its Greys Rd site in 2004.
But by July 2006 the park was heavily in debt, and to ensure its survival Busch accepted a financial rescue package from his mother.
This was on the basis that he relinquish control to Zion Wildlife Gardens and Zion Wildlife Services. He would remain as the licensed operator of the park and become an employee of Mrs Busch's company Country Developments.
But the relationship between mother and son deteriorated and in October former Auckland Zoo boss Glen Holland became an additional licensed operator of the park.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry revoked Busch's operating licence in November after he was dismissed.
Ms Oldfield said Busch had a foot injury that would prevent him resuming work at this stage and an order for reinstatement would be of no practical effect.
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