Possible job losses with Niwa change of direction

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) says a change in scientific direction may result in three redundancies at its Lauder station in Central Otago.

Niwa general manager of research Rob Murdoch said there had been a shift in the focus of atmospheric research carried out by the institute - a change that could save $375,000.

"Given that the ozone hole is showing signs of recovery, we now think it is more important to see the role of the ozone in climate change.

"So it is a skill set change ... a change in strategic focus."

A proposal had been put forward recommending the shedding of three atmospheric scientific staff, but that was going through a review process and no final decision would be made for the next two to three weeks, he said.

"Based on the review, it could be only one or two or whatever [staff go]".

Former Niwa scientist, past president of the New Zealand Association of Scientists and Victoria University Associate Prof James Renwick said any job cuts in the Lauder team would be a travesty.

The Lauder station was a key component of several global atmosphere and climate observing programmes and was one of only a few such sites in the southern hemisphere, he said.

"Reducing the Lauder laboratory to a shell, without the resources to continue the science that has made it internationally famous, is a travesty. This proposal will do serious damage to New Zealand's international reputation, involvement in international science and our ability to benefit from it."

However, Dr Murdoch said if the redundancies did come, they might not necessarily be of people at the Lauder station. There were other scientists, in Wellington, for example, who worked with information gathered by the 15 scientists working at Lauder, and those positions might come under scrutiny. Work at Lauder would continue, he said.

If three jobs did go, it would see a saving of $375,000, but Dr Murdoch said he would not know how that money would be reinvested until the review had been completed.

He said there were 66 full-time-equivalent staff working for Niwa and they received $12 million annually from the Government.

"We are very lucky to hold our funding from the Government ... It is the same as what we got last year," Dr Murdoch said.

Labour associate spokesperson for science Megan Woods said any job losses would affect New Zealand's scientific reputation.


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