AgResearch's chairman has been attacked for saying only a
small number of scientists at Invermay are ''mission critical''
to the organisation.
Sam Robinson made the comment at an Education and Science
select committee hearing, where he and chief executive Dr Tom
Richardson were questioned by Labour politicians about
AgResearch's plan to slash jobs at Invermay.
Details of the hearing, held late last year, came to light
when the transcript for the select committee was recently
Mr Robinson's comment came after he was asked by Dunedin
North MP David Clark why AgResearch had not released a
prediction of how many scientists would shift.
Mr Robinson replied: ''I am not going to say in public as to
what may or may not happen, but there will be work-outs for
each individual scientist because, in fact, you can count
them on that number of fingers at Invermay that are mission
Dr Clark also asked Dr Richardson about not releasing full
information about the restructuring plan, saying the
organisation lacked transparency.
''I think we've released what we've felt was appropriate to
release at this stage, where it didn't compromise commercial
relationships or, particularly, staff,'' Dr Richardson
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times this week, Dr Clark
said Mr Robinson's comment about the number of ''mission
critical'' scientists at Invermay showed AgResearch
leadership had ''less regard than they should for the
It also showed AgResearch should be ''listening very
carefully'' to Invermay's top scientists, who were regarded
as ''mission critical''.
''That particular group of scientists is saying they don't
want to shift - or certainly the ones that I have spoken
to,'' he said.
AgResearch management were ''evasive'' at the select
committee, which was symptomatic of a lack of transparency
over its restructuring plan, he said.
Their refusal to say how many staff would need to shift for
its restructuring plan to be considered a success was
''It shows that they are under pressure because things are
not mapping out as they anticipated.''
In response to questions from the ODT, Dr Richardson
this week said in a statement that: ''Mission critical is a
turn of phrase Mr Robinson used at the select committee to
describe the high-profile senior scientists held in very high
regard by the agri-sector.
''All our staff are important to us, but some, given their
experience and standing, are viewed by the sector
The organisation had no ''metric'' for how many staff would
need to move for the plan to be considered a success and he
disputed the suggestion he had been evasive.
''Mr Clark's assertions that we were evasive at the select
committee hearing are at odds with the chair of the
committee, who thanked us for the comprehensive answers we
''At all times, AgResearch has been transparent and honest in
its communications with staff and stakeholders, including
meeting the requirements of Official Information Act
Public Service Association secretary Richard Wagstaff said
yesterday Mr Robinson's comments were concerning.
''Reports that the board chairman has suggested to select
committee that only a small number of Invermay staff are
'mission critical' are concerning, and we hope that
AgResearch recognise that all staff play their part in
ensuring that AgResearch is well respected by the wider
sector,'' Mr Wagstaff said.
The potential impact on staff needed be at the forefront of
''The loss of institutional knowledge if significant staff
losses occur could mean a loss in quality for the vital
research AgResearch undertakes, so we believe staff
engagement and retention must be top priority when planning
for the future.''