A delegation of southern leaders who travelled to
Wellington to fight for the preservation of jobs at Invermay
feel they received a fair hearing.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull led the delegation to meet Economic
Development Minister Steven Joyce last night to discuss the
proposed downsizing of the agricultural science research
centre in Dunedin.
Mr Cull said the minister listened to the group's concerns
and said he intended to seek assurances from AgResearch's
board it fully understood all the potential implications of
''His words were that he intended to test AgResearch's
proposal thoroughly,'' Mr Cull said.
''I think that is as good as we could expect; that he
listened to and will seriously consider the points we put
around unintended consequences of the proposal.''
The delegation also included Environment Southland chairwoman
Ali Timms, former Dunedin MPs Katherine Rich and Pete
Hodgson, and Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead
and chief executive Peter Bodeker.
Mr Woodhead said he thought the meeting was constructive.
''I believe our case assisted the minister to understand the
potential unintended consequences of the proposal, by
ensuring he understands the wider collaborative groupings
that occur and will be affected,'' he said.
The delegation relayed concerns gathered from a summit held
in Dunedin on August 14, attended by more than 50 southern
The group told Mr Joyce any reduction in roles at Invermay
would have a serious economic and strategic impact, locally
From Dunedin's perspective, there was potential for more
smart businesses and jobs to be created from Invermay being
located in the city, the delegation told Mr Joyce, during a
The expertise at Invermay was crucial to ensure the
continuation of leading environmental research related to
farming and other industries which contributed significantly
to the Otago and Southland economies.
And nationally, the country would lose a major scientific
At the heart of the AgResearch proposal was a wish to create
hubs at Lincoln and Massey Universities that might drive
primary production productivity, and boost GDP.
The proposal had generated substantial regional dismay, much
more so than might be expected from the loss of 85 jobs from
the area, and much more than had any other episode of lost
jobs or lost companies in recent times, they said.
''We view it as a serious strategic error for New Zealand,
both for primary, production, industry and for science,'' Mr
Since the summit, southern leaders have been discussing the
Invermay situation with AgResearch chief executive Tom
Richardson and chairman Sam Robinson, but AgResearch did not
want to meet until after staff submissions closed on
''We wanted the opportunity to show [the minister] the
analysis by AgResearch has left some key gaps,'' Mr Cull
Mrs Rich said she believed the minister had responded
A minister could not intervene and supersede any decision
making, but he could ask the board to thoroughly test their
processes and had done that.
''It was heartening.''
It had, however, concerned her to learn from the minister
that organisations such as Federated Farmers and Beef and
Lamb were not strongly supportive of the preservation of
''I couldn't believe that. I do think it's an opportunity for
local people to have a say and come out in support. I think
Invermay is very important, not just to the Otago-Southland
region, but to the science capacity of the whole country.''
Mr Cull said the group would provide some more information to
the minister, and he, Mr Woodhead and Mrs Timms would meet
the AgResearch board on October 9 to discuss the proposal. In
the meantime, he was in discussions with AgResearch people
''at various levels''.
''We always said this would be a long discussion.''