Concerns have been expressed about the effect of
AgResearch's proposed restructuring on the Invermay-based
deer programme. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Deer farmers throughout New Zealand are being urged to
support the retention of Invermay's deer research programme.
A letter has been sent to farmers from former Invermay
director Dr Jock Allison, Dr Ken Drew, who led the deer
programme from 1978 to 2003, and Prof Frank Griffin, from the
University of Otago, who has collaborated with Invermay
researchers for decades.
The trio have asked farmers to indicate their preference for
the location of the AgResearch programme at either Invermay
or Lincoln, and to express their opinions to their local MP,
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Primary
Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Prime Minister John Key.
AgResearch is proposing to centralise its operations in
Lincoln and Palmerston North, with jobs at Invermay dropping
from 115 to 30, while 180 jobs will go from Ruakura, near
In the letter, Dr Allison, Dr Drew and Prof Griffin said the
proposal would ''almost certainly'' result in many of the
most important deer research staff not moving to Lincoln
which had no capability at present to accommodate the
approximately 1400 stock units ''so important'' for the
Thirty-five years had been invested in fencing and animal
handling capability at Invermay which could not be replicated
at Lincoln and no hill country existed there. Some of the
commercial herds with which present deer research staff
worked were in Otago and Southland.
The Invermay deer programme had led the development of the
New Zealand deer industry since its inception and the world
industry and science since then.
Central to the programme had been the close co-operation with
the University of Otago in the animal health and genomics
programmes. The ongoing work with resistance and
susceptibility to disease was an ''underpinning pillar'' for
the deer industry, they said.
The proposal to relocate everything to Lincoln in effect
disassembled the very sort of co-operation that was
world-class in science, to which AgResearch had contributed
$1 million only five years ago to establish the ongoing chair
in genomics and reproduction.
''It seems schizophrenic behaviour to now remove all of the
capability to co-operate with Otago in that area which also
includes most of the $17 million investment in the new
building at Invermay.''
The trio believed it would be only through ''concerted
industry efforts'' that the deer research programme would be
retained at Invermay.
When contacted, Dr Drew said he found the AgResearch proposal
''totally illogical'' as far as Invermay was concerned.
He believed many of the ''excellent people'' involved in the
deer research group would not move to Lincoln and ''superb
knowledge'' would be lost to the industry. He believed the
value of technology and research for deer farming in 2013
onwards would ''go rapidly downhill''.
''I find that very unsatisfactory and very bad news from the
point of view of the farming industry,'' he said.
Some of the active research that was being done at Invermay
at the moment involved farms in Western Southland. That work
''just won't happen from Canterbury; I'm pretty distraught
about that'', he said.
Dr Drew, who has written to Mr Joyce himself to express his
concerns, received both the Deer Industry Award and the
Lincoln Bledisloe Medal in 1995.
He was a former chairman of both the Otago branch of the Deer
Farmers Association and the Elk and Wapiti Society.
Over the years, he and others from Invermay had been
''immersed'' in the industry that they supported with
research and development.
''We weren't sitting out there divergent from the grassroots
people. We were actually right in it,'' he said.
Dr Drew was also concerned about the impact on DEEResearch, a
joint venture between the deer industry and AgResearch,
saying it believed it would be ''grossly diminished'' and
become ''very ineffective''.
Leaving 30 people at Invermay after the proposed
restructuring was a ''complete joke''.
''It'll go down the tube and totally shut down within a very
short period of time,'' he said.