Niwa station comments 'misinformed'

International scientists and agencies concerned about job cuts at a Lauder research station are "misinformed" about the impact of the changes, a spokeswoman for Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says.

It was "simply incorrect" to say the proposed staff cuts would leave the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) Lauder station with no measurement scientists and would "destroy" it as a critical southern hemisphere measurement site, the spokeswoman said. Niwa announced last week there could be three redundancies at Lauder because of a change in "strategic focus".

The situation is still under review and a decision is expected later this month. Several global atmospheric research organisations, along with scientists in Switzerland, Germany, England and the United States have objected to the cuts and outlined their concerns to Mr Joyce and Minister for the Environment Amy Adams.

They said the loss of those crucial staff would leave the station under-resourced and jeopardise its value as a "global asset" by threatening the quality of the atmospheric and climate change data collected at the station.

Mr Joyce's spokeswoman said Niwa had invested $500,000 in new equipment at Lauder over the last two years and would invest a further $100,000 in equipment in this financial year.

"They remain committed to this part of their research programme, to which $11.6 million is dedicated this year alone."

The review affected a total of 2.8 full-time positions out of the 66 full-time employees engaged in climate and atmospheric research at Niwa. None of the major international commitments of the station would be affected by this review, she said.

Asked if Mr Joyce was worried about the concerns aired by "high-powered" organisations within the scientific community, the spokeswoman said it was important for the board and management of Niwa to have the opportunity to make funding and management decisions and for "we and the international scientists" to respect their ability to do so.

"I would not expect New Zealand CRIs (Crown Research Institutes) to be offering opinions as to how overseas institutes allocate their resources.

"It is worth noting the science community in the US and Europe, where much of the criticism has come from, has been forced to make similar choices about their allocation of resources."

An atmospheric physicist was made redundant at the Lauder station last year after a nationwide review of atmospheric science and support staff roles at Niwa.


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