Ex-AgResearch director disappointed over plans

A former AgResearch director, who was on the board when the decision was made to establish four ''centres of excellence'', including Invermay, is disappointed with the plans to cut jobs at the research centre.

Robin Campbell, of Southland, said the logic behind closing the Wallaceville research centre at Upper Hutt, and establishing the centres of excellence at Invermay, Lincoln, Ruakura and Grasslands, was compelling.

''I've not seen anything really that has challenged or rendered invalid the logic that lay behind those difficult decisions we made in the early 2000s,'' Mr Campbell, who received Landcorp's agricultural communicator of the year award in 2004, said.

Those ''very difficult'' decisions, which included closing Wallaceville in its centennial year, were made with the idea of having the centres of excellence linked to the universities they were closest to.

''We really were thinking we could get better results, we could take research to a new level, build synergies, get better value for money from the changes we were making,'' he said.

It made ''so much sense'' to put animal health at Grasslands, near the veterinary school at Massey University, genetics and reproduction at Invermay, near the University of Otago's School of Medicine, have Ruakura as a centre for dairy and Lincoln for plant research, he said.

There was capital investment made at Invermay as a result of that decision, most of which occurred after he left the board.

The Invermay facilities were among the best AgResearch had and it was a shame they would not be used to capacity, he said.

Mr Campbell was also disappointed for the scientists and technicians he had worked with, both as a farmer and board member.

''I just hate to see their work disrupted and their lives, and they have made such a valuable contribution to New Zealand agriculture for such a long time.''

The closure of Wallaceville, which affected about 140 jobs, meant a loss of major intellectual capital and that took a long time to recover, he said.

While it did not look like AgResearch would change its mind on its restructuring, he hoped it would have an ''open mind'' on it.

''It just doesn't seem as if the arguments that have been put have cut much ice,'' he said.

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