AgResearch has been accused of hiding the ''enormous
risks'' of slashing Invermay jobs after the belated release of
its full business case.
This organisation's full case for restructuring, which it
previously refused to provide to the Otago Daily Times
after an Official Information Act request, goes into more
detail about the risks involved with its plan, examines a
''worst-case scenario'' outcome and business as usual
Local politicians say the full case shows the plan is high on
risk, with little potential for reward.
AgResearch responded by saying it had been transparent at
''all times'' and said its business case was ''robust''.
Meanwhile, a former top scientist at AgResearch says he has
been approached by several ''mission critical'' staff seeking
letters of support to use when applying for work elsewhere.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the full case showed AgResearch
had been guilty of only releasing the ''good bits'' and
keeping the risks hidden.
''In a nutshell, the 62 pages that have now been acknowledged
as being part of the complete business case [cover] the risks
and the worst-case scenarios.''
''The 40 pages that was originally released as the business
case was only the good bits.''
Dunedin North Labour MP Dr David Clark said it was no
surprise AgResearch had hidden the full report from farmers
''because it shows their plans have no economic merit
whatever and could hurt farm returns''.
''AgResearch has been treating industry stakeholders like
mushrooms: keeping them in the dark and feeding them
manure,'' Dr Clark said.
It was ''outrageous'' AgResearch's ''worst-case scenario''
assumed staff numbers would be ''sufficient to deliver
increases of revenue'' and did not take into account the risk
of greater-than-expected staff attrition.
He said the economic benefit AgResearch calculated would come
from its plan was ''within the margin of error''.
In the full report AgResearch lists the potential loss in
revenue from ''key science'' staff not moving among the risks
which could have a ''high'' impact on its plan.
Other risks identified included the loss of organisational
knowledge, delays in assets sales, the attractiveness of
Christchurch for staff asked to shift and the potential the
relocation could interrupt ''science delivery''.
The report says the risk of staff attrition would be
mitigated by ''working closely with affected staff during the
transition'' and building a ''very strong'' change management
However, former leader of the AgResearch Wallaceville
reproduction group, Prof Ken McNatty said he was yet to see
any sign AgResearch had learnt from previous restructuring,
when only seven out of 25 scientists shifted when asked to
move from Wallaceville to Invermay.
''I am very concerned about the way the AgResearch board has
behaved here. I don't know whether they have lost the
institutional memory that they had for the Wallaceville
Now a professor at Victoria University of Wellington, he kept
in touch with AgResearch scientists.
Those he had spoken to were telling him they were not going
to shift and he had written several ''letters of support''
for key staff looking for jobs elsewhere.
The latest proposal would be more damaging than relocating
Wallaceville staff in 2008, because the level of change
proposed was much larger, involving up to 250 staff
relocations from both its Invermay and Ruakura campuses ''I
think it's a terrible scenario for New Zealand and it's an
even worse scenario of the sheep and beef industries.''
Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said given
what was in the full report it was ''hard to fathom'' why the
AgResearch board and Government had approved it.
The option AgResearch should instead have chosen was the
''business as usual'' option assessed in the case, which
involved keeping staff where they were, but upgrading and
replacing old buildings, Mr Woodhead said.
AgResearch shared services director Andrew McSweeney said in
a statement it stood by its business case and denied trying
to hide the risks associated with its plan.
''We stand by our business case, which is sound and robust,
and at all times we have been transparent with stakeholders,
while protecting staff information and without compromising
commercially sensitive material.''
''The business case clearly defined the current issues
AgResearch faces, the options available and, importantly, the
risks and mitigations in proceeding with the Future Footprint
programme, including the overall benefit of delivering higher
returns, and better science for farmers and the pastoral
Asked why staff retention was not considered as part of its
''worst-case scenario'' he said: ''The scenarios were in the
financial modelling section, as part of the better business
case process, and outlined our ability to afford the facility
upgrades, e.g. reductions in asset disposals and increases in
The situation was ''very different'' from the Wallaceville
relocation ''as it is a major investment and is being done in
partnership with other organisations''.
''We're committed to trying to help every staff member make a
decision that will suit their circumstances, and we'll work
to ensure the transition is as easy as possible,'' he said.