Invermay 'awful', visitor says

The mood at Invermay is ''awful'' following AgResearch's decision to go ahead with restructuring, a researcher who recently visited Dunedin says.

Former AgResearch scientist Prof Ken McNatty, who now works for Victoria University, made the comments after returning from a trip to Dunedin last week.

''It's a terrible atmosphere, it's just awful. I've never experienced anything quite like it,'' Prof McNatty said.

The mood at Invermay was ''much worse'' than at the Wallaceville campus where he was working before it was shut down in 2008. Prof McNatty was among staff from Wallaceville who left the organisation rather than move to a different campus.

He felt the situation at Invermay had worsened since last month's announcement that AgResearch, apart from a few changes, was going ahead with its plan to slash the number of jobs at Invermay and move staff north to Lincoln.

It had got to the point where it was ''dysfunctional''.

''People are not focused on their profession. They are focused on things outside.''

Scientists did the job because they enjoyed ''tackling difficult problems'' and finding answers, but that ''enthusiasm and vibrancy'' had gone.

Even scientists part of ''hugely successful'' international efforts to sequence the sheep genome were ''completely negative'' about the organisation.

The looming restructuring and number of redundancies in recent years meant he no longer had any hope about AgResearch's future.

''I think it's basically doomed. I just don't see a future for it.''

This view was shared by AgResearch staff he had spoken to and about 15 AgResearch staff had approached him seeking references so they could find work elsewhere.

The situation was ''sad'' and would have a ''lasting and irrevocable negative effects on the agricultural industry'', he said.

An AgResearch spokesman said it acknowledged not everyone agreed with its plans, but had ''listened to all views''.

''Now, we want to be able to work closely with our staff and partners in the design, build and transition phase of our new facilities.

''We will be working with our staff in providing them with the support and information they need to work through their individual situations,'' the spokesman said.

Staff turnover was within ''normal parameters'' and it was proud of the continued quality of work staff delivered for New Zealand's pastoral sector.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

Missing the point

'Craypot' doesn't quite grasp that the baby is often thrown out with the bathwater in these restructures. What might seem like a brilliant masterstroke of efficiency often backfires completely, and (apart from this Agresearch trainwreck) history is littered with examples. We know this, but we don't seem to have learned from it. I have no connection with AgResearch but even I can plainly see that this plan has been incredibly damaging, nationally. You can replace staff, but you can't easily replace the trust, goodwill, and support from the farming relationships that have been built up over time, not to mention the huge amount of practical and scientific knowledge that has been eroded due to staff leaving. It really makes NZ look like bumbling fools, dancing to an accountant's tune. So much for a smart "knowledge economy". Oh dear.

Accepting change

I think Prof McNatty is being a tad precious with his comments. Fact is, the ordinary workers in New Zealand, many of whom don't have the superannuation top up or embelished individual contracts dished out to these self-professed top level industries, just have to accept redundancy as a fact of life. No, 18 months negotiations on exit perks for them, just "dont come tomorrow" . Establishments like Invermay have been wrapped up in cotton wool for decades, with no real gauge given as to true benefits to us plebs, but as soon as efficiency is raised, the Union is all out saying how special they are. If what you do is so valuable you will be back in work tomorrow.

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