AgResearch 'wanted to expand Invermay'

A new leak reveals AgResearch made a submission to Dunedin City Council enthusiastic about expanding Invermay, only months before presenting plans to the Government to slash jobs at the facility.

AgResearch's submission on the Dunedin's draft economic development strategy, dated June 15, also said there was a ''unique'' opportunity to develop an ''agricultural science innovation precinct'' at Invermay because of the city's ''knowledge and innovation base''.

The submission was made four and-a-half months before AgResearch presented to the Government its business case for shifting jobs from Invermay to a new Lincoln hub.

In the submission, AgResearch pushed for the council to help foster growth at Invermay.

''AgResearch considers that the draft strategy should specifically highlight the importance of Invermay to Dunedin City in this regard so that 'priority actions' can be tailored accordingly towards protecting, fostering and encouraging further growth at this significant facility.''

AgResearch was also enthusiastic about the draft strategy's focus on research and education institutions.

''AgResearch considers Dunedin is in [a] relatively unique position with the existence of Invermay in terms of its knowledge and innovation base, and agrees that there is good potential to build on this,'' the submission said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the submission was yet another piece of evidence showing how weak AgResearch's future footprint plan was.

''Increasingly, the AgResearch business case proposal seems to be isolated and at odds with all the other thinking,'' Mr Cull said.

The evidence, including the submission, instead suggested there should be more jobs at an Invermay as part of a Dunedin-based ''hub''.

He doubted the author of the submission was aware of plans to cut jobs at Invermay, because it was ''diametrically opposed'' to AgResearch's restructuring case.

''What it again seems to me to display is the fact that the business case proposal has been developed almost in isolation.''

AgResearch acting chief executive Andrew McSweeney said a final decision on its restructuring plans, which have been in development for two years, had not been settled on when the submission to the council was made.

''At that time, it was not planning to do anything other than consider all of the options that would help strengthen AgResearch's ability to deliver leading agricultural science to New Zealand's pastoral sector over the long term,'' he said.

Its restructuring plans did not contradict the suggestion in the submission Dunedin was in a ''unique position''.

''The future footprint proposal doesn't, in any way, suggest Invermay and Dunedin do not have advantages due to the knowledge and innovation base that exists there.''

The submission was not an attempt to mislead the council, but ''was appropriate to raise the potential for expansion with the city council and test the interest in growing an agricultural science hub at, or co-located with, Invermay.

''However, despite an offer to meet and discuss our submission, including some of the ideas which were put forward, the Dunedin City Council did not take up that offer,'' he said.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

 

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