Former Invermay director Jock Allison speaks to Invermay stakeholders,
outlining his opposition to the AgResearch move to reduce staffing and move research capabilities from Invermay to Lincoln. Photo by Leith Huffadine
Sheep and deer breeders across the Otago region will be hit
hard by the closing of the AgResearch Invermay facility,
opponents of the plan say.
At a heated meeting organised by the Southern Texel Breeders
Association in Gore last week, Invermay supporters challenged
AgResearch NZ and its decision to move genetics and genomics
programmes and some staffing from the Mosgiel site to Lincoln
Sheep farmers were more reliant than ever on Invermay science
as they were forced higher into the hills by land-use change,
a Central Otago farmer said.
Others at the meeting voiced concerns that moving Invermay
capabilities would harm the sheep and deer industries in
Otago and Southland, and that the move might break down
relationships between farmers and AgResearch.
Meeting organiser Hamish Bielski questioned the viability of
the move and said having to travel to Lincoln to use
AgResearch facilities there would mean higher costs for
AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson said he had come to
dispel myths surrounding the changes at Invermay and reaffirm
AgResearch's commitment to regional science.
When asked by a member of the public why the $11 million
Christie Building at Invermay, constructed about five years
ago, was closing, Dr Richardson said that [the building
closing] was a myth and it would remain open and staffed.
''We can't have a grown-up conversation if there is that
level of [mis]understanding.''
Dr Richardson said the relocation of staff from Invermay was
a part of the Future Footprint (FFP) business case, with an
aim to increase the export percentage of GDP from 30% to 40%
Modern facilities established with a $100 million investment
would attract much needed young and foreign scientists to
agricultural science in New Zealand and create more
productive, collaborative hubs, Dr Richardson said.
A former Invermay scientist, George Davis, challenged him,
saying Invermay facilities, including the Christie Building,
were up to date and moving staff was a waste of money. He
presented a case for expanding rather than reducing Invermay.
Dr Richardson said AgResearch had to balance national with
regional science and there was no political slant involved in
the move to Lincoln.
''There are no other hidden agendas other than doing the best
science we can possibly do.''
Former Invermay director Jock Allison said numerous
stakeholder groups disagreed with the plans to move,
including the deer and sheep industries, AgResearch change
management team staff, Invermay science staff, and former
senior AgResearch scientists.
Sheep farmer Peter Black said the move was pointless, as the
system in place was functioning properly already.
''We have been offered pie in the sky when we have bread and
butter on our back door.''
There was no point in trying to fix something that was not
Towards the end of the meeting, Invermay stakeholders asked
AgResearch representatives to take on board what was being
said, and asked if they would reconsider the plans to move
staffing and science programmes to Lincoln.
AgResearch chairman Sam Robinson responded, saying they
[AgResearch] were willing to listen.
''We are always listening and we always have an open mind. We
will take in what has been said today, but we will not wind
the clock back.''
- by Leith Huffadine