The relationship between Invermay Agricultural Centre's
scientists and farmers in Otago and Southland is too
important to compromise, past Federated Farmers Otago
president John Rowley says. Photo by Allied Press Files.
Agresearch's plan to cut about 80 jobs from Invermay
Agricultural Centre will return Otago and Southland's farmers
back to the ''doldrums'', a former Federated Farmers Otago
Retired farmer and past Federated Farmers Otago president
John Rowley, of the Teviot Valley, said a reduction of staff
at Invermay would have an impact on the profitability and
productivity of farmers in Otago and Southland.
''Farmers should be expecting more scientists and more
research at Invermay, not less,'' Mr Rowley said.
Mr Rowley said the research which was produced at Invermay
and shared with farmers in the South by scientists from
Invermay had caused ''phenomenal'' increases in productivity
during his time as a farmer. In the early days of his farming
career, Lincoln University was the main source of information
for farmers in Otago and Southland.
''It was so far away, farmers felt despondent and out of the
There would be the potential for a similar scenario to arise
under AgResearch's proposed plan, he said.
He also questioned whether scientists would engage with
farmers in the South in the way they had since Invermay
''The current farmers ... haven't been through a period where
you don't have the benefit of science and a group of local
scientists,'' Mr Rowley said.
''How do you get the same energy from a scientist based at
Lincoln to come and do that science here in Otago or northern
Southland. It's a hell of a long way.''
He believed a reduction in hands-on science would lead to a
stagnation in productivity and smaller farmers would not be
able to cope with the reduced margins coming with that
Former Foundation for Science, Research and Technology Board
director Pat Garden, of Millers Flat, said he agreed with Mr
Rowley and he was concerned the move was not based on what
was best for agricultural science.
''I think it's about corporate ambition rather than focusing
on agriculture and farming.''
He believed the decision would have consequences for the
pastoral industry in Otago and Southland and New Zealand.
''The relationship with the University of Otago, I think, is
going to be diminished. The deer work is going to be
compromised and I think it's a sad move.''
Focusing on establishing scientific hubs would diminish
AgResearch's scientific reach, he said.
''The issue is about centralising rather than maintaining
networks between AgResearch and the industry and that's the
things we are going to lose.''
Another former Federated Farmers Otago president Murray Rose,
of Waitahuna, said, while ''disappointed'' about the
restructuring, he was more philosophical.
''The Government have said its contribution to the economy
was questionable,'' Mr Rose said.
He conceded there would be some effect on farmers in Otago
and Southland, but he hoped it would be minor and he believed
the centralisation of AgResearch might help lift agricultural
Federated Farmers vice-president William Rolleston said he
supported the ''reconfiguration'' of AgResearch as New
Zealand needed ''modern progressive agricultural research
centres of excellence''.
''If it is 'bricks and mortar' versus capability, then
capability must win out,'' Dr Rolleston said.
- Timothy Brown.