Invermay support

The chairman of a Southland sheep breeding association is calling for a ''thorough audit'' of AgResearch over its decision to gut Invermay.

Southern Texel Breeders Association president Hugh Gardyne said the association was concerned about AgResearch's direction in a letter to its board, chief executive and Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.

''We request a reversal of the decision to close Invermay and a thorough audit of AgResearch spending to ascertain the areas of waste contributing to this current condemnation of the Invermay campus,'' Mr Gardyne said.

Invermay enjoyed strong regional support, and not having access to a fully staffed facility in the South would be a major loss for farmers, breeders and other users from the region, he said.

The Lincoln and Invermay climates were ''vastly different'', which was another reason to keep a strong facility in the South.

Mr Gardyne also felt recent comments by AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson expressing interest in investing in dairy farms in Otago and Southland showed ''poor judgement'', when there were already dairy farms run by ''industry good'' organisations in Telford in South Otago and Thornbury in Southland.

He also believed AgResearch failed to consult properly with farmers and other end users over its Future Footprint plan.

Dr Richardson said its Future Footprint proposal had been ''thorough'' and involved staff, farmer and industry organisations, including Beef and Lamb New Zealand and Federated Farmers.

''We are continuing to work closely with all our industry stakeholders throughout the process, and we have offered to meet with Mr Gardyne and his association members to discuss our plans with them,'' he said.

The plan would not come at the expense of ''regionally relevant science''.

''The Invermay campus will continue to have a group of scientists that will work with farmers and other regional stakeholder groups,'' he said.

Any decision on the purchase of dairy farms would be made next year ''following due diligence and consultation with stakeholders''.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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