City MPs seek Invermay inquiry

The Labour Party's Dunedin-based MPs are pressing for the Auditor-general to launch an inquiry into AgResearch's restructuring plan, that would result in ''axing scores of science jobs'' at Invermay.

An earlier approach by Invermay supporters did not result in a full review by the Auditor-general, Lyn Provost, but the MPs said circumstances had since changed and more information had become available.

Labour deputy leader David Parker said there was ''a high level of public concern'' that AgResearch's changes had been ''pushed through without taking into account the views of the community and of businesses''.

And ''serious questions'' had to be answered, including about the consultation process, he said.

Mr Parker, who is also the Labour finance spokesman, said this was ''yet another irreversible blow to the regions across the country''.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran said AgResearch's failure to deal with ''ongoing staff losses'' was of ''grave concern'' to farmers and the public.

Dunedin North MP David Clark said independent economic analysis had shown the business case for dismantling Invermay and shifting staff to Lincoln in 2017 did not ''stack up''.

The failure of AgResearch to satisfactorily monitor, review and report on ''management of identified risks and perceived conflicts of interest'' required independent examination, Dr Clark said.

In a recent letter to the Auditor-general, requesting the inquiry, the three MPs noted that parliament's finance and expenditure committee had agreed unanimously to request her to broaden her overall general scope of investigation to include crown research institutes.

On May 28, AgResearch announced the earlier-projected 26 staff to be retained at the Invermay campus would be increased to 38, and the Invermay farm and its deer herd would be retained.

But most staff and Invermay's genomic capability would transfer to Lincoln.

Approached for comment, Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said Dr Clark was being ''constantly negative'' and was again ''trying to re-heat his attack on AgResearch for party political reasons''.

''If Dr Clark wanted to use his time more constructively, he could work alongside AgResearch with local stakeholders to increase the amount of research contracted to occur at Invermay.''

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