Dr Tom Richardson.
AgResearch ''may well'' change its restructuring plan as
a result of discussions with ''stakeholders'', an internal
email has revealed.
AgResearch chief executive Dr Tom Richardson made the comment
in an email released to the Otago Daily Times under an
Official Information Act request to the Ministry of Business,
Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
''Several of the ongoing discussions will advance in the New
Year and they may well lead to changes from the current
plan,'' Dr Richardson said in an email sent to MBIE and a
government office last December.
Another email indicated Science and Innovation Minister
Steven Joyce was open to AgResearch changing its plan. The
email, sent from Mr Joyce's office to MBIE, asked for more
information on an internal report recommending Invermay be
expanded rather than downsized.
''The minister would like this issue to be looked at more
closely and `tested','' a member of Mr Joyce's staff said.
''The proposed hub at Lincoln could still exist, but could
perhaps be altered.''
Former Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson said the correspondence,
especially from Mr Joyce's office, added to his optimism
AgResearch would overturn its decision to slash Invermay
''The minister has clearly gotten hold of the idea that it
may not be very smart to destroy a hub in Dunedin in order to
help create one in Lincoln.''
If the plan was overturned, it would probably be due to
government, farmer and board pressure and not a change of
heart from AgResearch senior management.
''The senior executive team remain as trenchantly opposed to
change as they have always been.''
In another email released to the ODT, AgResearch shared
services director Andrew McSweeney expressed an openness to
''We believe our rationale for the transfer of capability [to
Lincoln] is strong, however, we will review again our
position, with the information and discussions we have had to
date, and once we have concluded our meeting/s with [the
University of Otago] and AbacusBio,'' Mr McSweeney said.
Further correspondence released to the ODT suggests the
potential for staff losses remains a major concern for MBIE
and Mr Joyce.
Ahead of a meeting with Dr Richardson in November last year,
MBIE told Mr Joyce information AgResearch had provided on
potential ''staff loss'' lacked ''the detail required''.
However, much of the correspondence painted AgResearch's plan
in a positive light, including most of an MBIE report on
AgResearch's ''genomics team''.
In the report, MBIE said New Zealand's agricultural sector
was facing ''major challenges'' and AgResearch was trying to
address these with its restructuring.
However, the report said maintaining or expanding staff at
Invermay would reduce risks of losing staff and make it
easier to maintain ''collaborations with other research
A spokesman for Mr Joyce told the ODT yesterday the
correspondence showed the minister was ''making good on his
pledge'' to thoroughly test AgResearch's plan.
The minister expected AgResearch to ''continue to refine its
plans'' as a result of discussions with ''stakeholders'',
including the Southern Texel Breeders, which this week passed
a vote of no confidence in AgResearch.
''AgResearch remains keen to further develop proposals in the
South that will bring further revenue to its organisation and
further support its activities at Invermay.
''As the minister has stated before, the development of the
Lincoln Hub is not dependent on any particular configuration
of AgResearch's research groups.''
AgResearch did not respond to specific questions from the
ODT, instead issuing a generic response.
''We are always, and will always continue to be, in
discussions with all our stakeholders and research partners
throughout New Zealand to investigate how we can collaborate
to better deliver our sector's future science needs.''
It would confirm restructuring plans ''in the next couple of
months'' and would contact staff first ''if there are