Changes to AgResearch's plan to cut Invermay's campus have
been welcomed, but critics are angry most of its more than
100 staff are still set to shift north.
Invermay staff learnt their fate yesterday, when the
organisation announced an extra five staff would be retained
at Invermay - leaving it with 38 staff once restructuring was
complete in 2017.
Those who have long campaigned against AgResearch slashing
jobs at Invermay welcomed the changes, but said they went
nowhere near far enough.
Former Invermay director Dr Jock Allison said there was no
''logic'' behind AgResearch's decision to stick with shifting
animal genomics staff north to Lincoln and the fight to keep
them in Dunedin ''was not over yet''.
''It leads one to the conclusion that they are not worried
about sheep and beef [research] at all,'' Dr Allison said.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he was happy to see deer science
retained at Invermay, but was disappointed AgResearch had
ignored opposition from farmers, industry and in its own
staff, and gone ahead with shifting its genomics capability.
It was clear the decision was not solely about science, but
an ''overt attempt'' to bolster a ''faltering'' Lincoln
University and support the Christchurch rebuild, Mr Cull
In contrast, AgResearch chief executive Dr Tom Richardson
said the changes to its plan secured Invermay's future and
strengthened its position as a ''hub'' for regional farm
systems and environmental research.
The changes largely centred on deer research. Three deer
scientists would no longer relocate, an additional scientist
would be added to the deer team and Invermay's 900-strong
deer herd would be maintained.
As part of yesterday's announcement, the University of Otago
also confirmed it would shift between five and 10 genomics
staff and sequencing equipment to Invermay.
Deputy vice-chancellor, research and enterprise, Prof Richard
Blaikie, said in AgResearch's press release the move was a
''great opportunity to have closer alignment of staff
involved in genomics from both organisations''.
However, he made it clear when speaking to the ODT, it
was his personal view that AgResearch should have kept its
genomics capability at Invermay.
AgResearch's decision gained praise from several industry
bodies, including Deer Industry New Zealand, Federated
Farmers and DairyNZ.
Federated Farmers food production sciences spokesman Dr
William Rolleston welcomed it as the ''best strategic outcome
for New Zealand agricultural science''.
''I think farmers should welcome the way AgResearch has
listened to reason, because Invermay's future has been
enhanced over the original proposals,'' he said.
However, Beef and Lamb New Zealand was not so enthusiastic
about the changes and its chairman James Parsons sought
assurances about beef and sheep research.
''[Beef and Lamb] respects it is the call of the AgResearch
leadership as to how it runs its business and where it
locates its staff.
''However, before being satisfied, [Beef and Lamb] requires
more information that suitable plans and mitigations are in
place so our research outcomes are not compromised and
science capability is retained,'' he said.
Dr Richardson said the decision was never going to please
everyone and some tough decisions had to be made ''in the
face of some passionate disagreement'' in the interests of
New Zealand agricultural science.
''We understand and respect the efforts individuals and
groups have made - both inside and outside the organisation -
to champion the cause of their particular facilities and
regions,'' he said.
''In many respects, these representations have influenced our
thinking and our plans have evolved.''
AgResearch also welcomed the opportunity to work alongside
staff from Otago University.
Another change announced yesterday was the establishment of
an ''animal productivity relationship management role'' at
Invermay, responsible for maintaining relationships with
Otago and Southland ''animal science collaborators'' and
farmers. Invermay's hill country farm would also be kept, and
the recorded sheep flock from the Woodlands farm, in
Southland, would be shifted to Invermay.
Public Service Association assistant secretary Jeff Osborne
said staff were still digesting the news yesterday, but were
pleased some changes had been made.
''That shows that AgResearch has been listening to feedback
from staff and other stakeholders in the region.''
It was too early to say whether staff attitudes to AgResearch
leadership - which earlier this month resulted in Invermay
members approving a motion of no confidence in its board and
management - would change as a result of yesterday's
''There is still some way to go in making people feel
comfortable about the move.''
Much of this would depend on the ''relocation package''
AgResearch came up with.
Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said
AgResearch's final restructuring plan still threatened to rob
the Invermay campus of much of its valuable research
''I am very disappointed to see the genetics team moving to
Lincoln and the large number of science and technical staff
still moving,'' he said.
''There is a huge risk of a loss of experience and crucial
staff as a result and I hope AgResearch works aggressively to
ensure staff are looked after.''
- The majority of Invermay's more than 100 staff - including
animal genomics scientists - will shift to Lincoln as part of
- AgResearch plans to base 38 staff at Invermay by 2017, as
opposed to 26 in its original plan.
- Three deer researchers no longer relocating. An additional
scientist to be recruited to the deer team at Invermay.
- Deer farm and 900-strong deer herd at Invermay
- University of Otago to shift between five and 10 genomics
staff and sequencing equipment to the Invermay campus.