Government documents show AgResearch ''misled'' ministers
about a report which recommended growing Invermay, former
Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson says.
Mr Hodgson made the comments after looking over a second
batch of documents on AgResearch's Future Footprint Plan
released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official
Information Act (OIA) by the Ministry of Business, Innovation
and Employment (MBIE).
The almost 200 pages of documents give further detail of just
how heavily involved the Government was in the plan. MBIE
staff and Minister of Science and Innovation Steven Joyce
gave AgResearch direction over its building layout at the
proposed Lincoln hub.
AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson disputed Mr
Hodgson's reading of the documents, saying: ''At all times,
AgResearch has been transparent and honest in its
communications with staff, stakeholders and the minister.''
A spokesman for Mr Joyce said Mr Hodgson's comments were
''wrong and misleading''.
Mr Hodgson, the former minister of research, science and
technology, said a briefing paper, dated September 19, showed
Dr Richardson misled Mr Joyce and Finance Minister Bill
The AgResearch briefing paper gives details of how staff
consultation had progressed, but failed to say its own change
management team (CMT) report recommended growing Invermay's
genetics capacity, rather than shifting staff to Lincoln.
''That advice to the minister was sufficiently slanted that I
would label it misleading, if I ever received advice like
An example of the Government's involvement in AgResearch's
plan could be seen in a letter sent to AgResearch from Mr
Joyce and Associate Minister of Finance Jonathan Coleman in
April accepting its proposal.
''We note that the proposed plans for capital investment in
facilities and infrastructure, outlined in the Future
Footprint business case submitted in October, do not reflect
the more recent work on establishing an integrated innovation
hub at Lincoln.''
It goes on to say that MBIE officials would ''continue to
work closely with you on this proposal''.
Mr Hodgson said this, and other documents, showed just how
involved the Government was in AgResearch's Future Footprint
plan, especially when it came to the Lincoln hub.
The ministers' April letter also talks about the Government
having to give the plan ''final approval''.
''We look forward to receiving full and final plans for both
Lincoln and Grasslands hubs. If these are satisfactory, we
will grant final approval to proceed with the required
capital investment,'' the ministers say.
Mr Hodgson said it was his impression that this ''final
approval'' was given in a letter sent in August by a MBIE
official, saying: ''The ministers have given full consent for
AgResearch to proceed with the farm sales proposed in the
Future Footprint business plan.''
A spokesman for Mr Joyce said the ministers approved
AgResearch's Future Footprint plan to proceed to consultation
''AgResearch is currently engaging with its stakeholders on
this plan, following consultation with its staff and, as
such, no final decisions have been made.
''The Government does have influence over the final proposal
but would be wary of rejecting the considered views of the
appointed AgResearch Board and its key client stakeholders,
who are the organisations that pay for the research that it
does,'' he said.
On the minister's support for a Lincoln hub, the spokesman
said ''it's no secret the Government has been involved across
multiple agencies and departments''.
''The minister is a supporter of the hub concept in general
and the Lincoln hub in particular, which is not just about
''It is about the post-earthquake redevelopment plans for
Lincoln University, the development of the Plant and Food and
Landcare campuses at Lincoln, and the attraction of private
sector R and D facilities, as well as AgResearch's Future
Footprint plans,'' he said.
Mr Joyce would continue to be updated on AgResearch's plans.
Another piece of correspondence from AgResearch chairman Sam
Robinson mentioned the idea of the Dunedin City Council,
Otago Regional Council and University of Otago ''working
together'' to create an ''environmental/farm systems''
cluster around Invermay.
The idea was discussed at a meeting between AgResearch and
representatives from the city council on September 23.
Questioned about the meeting, Mr Cull said such an idea was
discussed, but it was ''stretching things to say that we were
going to work together'', and it declined to put out a shared
press release supporting a cluster, because of lack of common