Perendale ewes. Photo by ODT.
Perendale sheep breeders have entered the debate over
restructuring at Invermay, suggesting the move of ''world-class
research'' to Lincoln be put on hold for two years after the
The Perendale Sheep Society of New Zealand's annual
conference, which included a visit to the research centre,
ended in Dunedin on Sunday night.
While two AgResearch scientists - Drs Michael Lee and Tricia
Johnson - addressed the group at the centre, they did not
mention the restructuring.
But they were among a group of four senior scientists, who
Southern Texel Breeders Association member Hamish Bielski
earlier described as ''rock star'' scientists and said they
had indicated they did not plan to shift.
Following an update on research projects, West Otago
Perendale breeder Allan Richardson spoke briefly of the
importance to the red meat sector of the research done at
Describing it as the ''hub'' for genetics, he asked those
present if they wanted to lose that capability, saying, ''We
won't be coming back here next time.''
AgResearch's restructuring plans, which include downsizing
Invermay and relocating jobs to Lincoln, were later formally
discussed by the society.
Those attending unanimously proposed the move be put on hold
for two years after the proposed final move in 2017, so the
''financial, scientific and human resource implications'' of
the move could be fully evaluated and communicated.
The society felt that world-class sheep, beef and venison
research done by AgResearch scientists at Invermay should not
be risked by relocating to Lincoln, especially while the
industry continued to lose farmers to other land uses, Mr
''Farmers feel they have not been informed, rather they have
just been told what is happening. This decision is far too
important to rush through without the full costs and benefits
of each option being known,'' he said.
The society believed the debate should not just be for the
benefit of red meat sector farmers. It was of ''utmost
importance'' to New Zealand's economy, which was still
reliant on a strong, high performing agricultural sector, he
The Southern Texel Breeders Association has also been vocal
in its concerns over the restructuring and passed a vote of
no confidence in AgResearch over its handling of plans to
slash Invermay jobs.
When contacted, an AgResearch spokesman said the plan to
bring scientists working on animal productivity together at
the Lincoln hub had not been made lightly.
The Future Footprint proposal was developed with the primary
sector, to enable it to deliver on the better science more
''The financial, scientific and staffing impacts of a number
of options, including the status quo, were fully evaluated as
we developed our plans. We are confident that all New Zealand
farmers will continue to get the science they need to make
informed decisions about managing their farms and their
livestock, in the interests of receiving higher returns,'' he
There was a ''robust and logical and coherent case'' for the
programme to go ahead in the time frame outlined.
When it came to consultation, AgResearch had talked to 150
organisations, including farming groups, and more than 300
individuals, he said.
Further opportunities to speak face-to-face to farmers were
planned and they were invited to continue to contact
AgResearch ''should they have any concerns''.
''We will be confirming our plans in the next couple of
months to enable the design phase to commence. If there are
changes, we will let our staff know first, and then we will
be in contact with our stakeholders,'' he said.