More than 40% of AgResearch staff who responded to a
survey say they will retire or find work elsewhere rather than
move as part of the organisation's restructuring plan.
The Public Service Association (PSA) survey attracted 177
responses, including 104 from staff who have been told their
positions will be moved as part of the organisation's Future
Footprint plan. Only one of the 104 respondents down to move
said they were ''happy to relocate''.
The organisation has a total of 833 staff (including 53
fixed-term workers) of which up to 250 are to move - about 75
from Invermay and 174 from the Ruakura campus in Hamilton -
if AgResearch's plan goes ahead.
AgResearch chief executive Dr Tom Richardson slammed the PSA
for releasing the survey to the media, and the quality of the
results, saying it ''paints a biased and misleading picture
of staff sentiment at the organisation''.
''This survey is not indicative of how all AgResearch staff
are feeling about the proposal to reconfigure our future
scientific capability so we better balance national and local
needs,'' he said in a statement.
Dunedin North MP David Clark said the survey should send a
''clear message'' to the Government and showed the need for
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce to intervene.
''It will decimate the research capacity, which will be
disastrous for New Zealand as a whole, and ... it will be
disastrous for Dunedin.''
The sample size for the survey was large compared to
political polls which were taken from a ''far smaller''
sample of the overall population.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the survey showed there would be
a ''critical loss of expertise'' under AgResearch's plan.
''That degree of loss suggests to me they will have great
difficulty fulfilling their obligations to their clients.
''It simply reinforces the contradiction between the minister
and AgResearch's consistent claim that they are really
concerned about [people not moving], but when people make it
clear [scientists] will be lost to AgResearch, they don't
change the proposal.''
Mr Joyce declined to comment on the survey results, with a
spokesman for the minister saying: ''The minister appreciates
that Mr Clark doesn't want to see any changes at any time at
''... he doesn't intend to comment on individual reports or
pieces of information ... being considered by AgResearch.''
PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said the survey
showed ''serious concerns about the potential loss of staff,
expertise and capability out of the organisation''.
Of the survey respondents, only 1% indicated they were happy
to move, 32% said they were going to leave AgResearch and
seek employment elsewhere, 10% said they would retire, and
27% said they did not want to move but wanted to stay with
The rest either said it was too early to decide, they did not
know or refused to respond.
The survey showed AgResearch's planned restructuring was
having an effect on staff not being asked to shift, with just
over a quarter of all respondents saying they were either
very stressed or extremely stressed by the restructuring, 39%
saying they were moderately stressed.
Of those who had not been asked to move, 10% said they would
Mr Wagstaff said there was a clear message from staff in the
survey and accompanying comments made by members that
AgResearch's plan would ''seriously undermine'' its ability
to deliver quality agricultural science and ''threaten future
''The fact 80% of those surveyed say they are worried about
the impact of the restructure on the science sector as a
whole is significant and echoes the concerns of many other
groups and stakeholders.
''This survey should send a clear message to AgResearch about
how staff feel about the Future Footprint plans and the
effect it will have on staff retention and organisational
capacity, not to mention the provision of quality scientific
work to the agricultural sector,'' he said.
Dr Richardson said it was ''deeply disappointing'' the survey
was released to the media before the PSA discussed it with
management or ''even the staff involved''.
''The wording of the questions was misleading and, in some
cases, invalid from a scientific perspective. Put simply, it
was a selective snapshot survey designed to deliver on a
specific message,'' he said.
The Future Footprint proposal would deliver ''better science,
more efficiently to the benefit of New Zealand farmers and
the pastoral sector''.
''This co-location will not come at the expense of the
regions. For example, the Invermay campus will continue to
have a core group of scientists working with farmers and
other regional stakeholder groups on on-farm and
environmental issues,'' Dr Richardson said.