AgResearch 'in panic mode'

The appointment of an external company to manage AgResearch's restructuring plan shows it is in ''panic mode'', Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark says.

The comments come after AgResearch last week appointed Christchurch-based The Project Office to manage its $100 million restructuring plan, which includes the development of a Lincoln hub.

AgResearch said the appointment brought its restructuring plan, which included slashing the number of Invermay jobs, ''one step closer to reality''.

Dr Clark said it was a ''waste of taxpayer money'' and showed AgResearch was in ''panic mode''.

''They have brought in outside expertise because the project has gone off the rails.''

Such an appointment was not signalled in AgResearch's earlier business plan.

That AgResearch was pushing ahead with plans also showed it was oblivious to growing opposition and evidence large numbers of top scientists would resign rather than shift campuses, he said.

An AgResearch spokeswoman said the appointment of a property project management firm was always part of the plan and in line with the ''approach set out in the Future Footprint business case''.

''The planning, design and construction of new buildings or refits of older buildings are major projects which require specialist skills and expertise.

''It would be irresponsible for AgResearch to try and manage a complex building programme with specialist facilities itself.''

In announcing the appointment, AgResearch said it was made in consultation with partner organisations at the Lincoln hub and FoodHQ hub at Palmerston North.

AgResearch chief executive Dr Tom Richardson said undertaking the project in collaboration with sector partners, including DairyNZ, Landcare Research, Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research, had many advantages.

An AgResearch spokesman rejected the Public Service Association's call to put its Future Footprint Plan on hold because of staff concerns.

''We do not agree with the PSA's proposal to put a hold on Future Footprint progress.

''At our meeting with the PSA we will work through why the issues they identify are not part of the Future Footprint proposal,'' the spokesman said.

After clarification was sought on the last sentence, a spokeswoman said: ''The PSA raised a range of issues, some of which are related to Future Footprint and some of which are not, and we will seek to understand and address their concerns when we meet.''

In response, PSA assistant secretary Jeff Osborne said it took AgResearch's statements about ''open consultation at face value''.

That meant AgResearch should ''listen to what people are saying and adjust their thinking accordingly''.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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