Scientists weigh in over Lauder job cuts

Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) beams from Lauder probe the night sky. These Lidar systems...
Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) beams from Lauder probe the night sky. These Lidar systems measure ozone and small particles in the upper atmosphere. Photo by Niwa.

Scientists from around the world say job cuts at a Lauder research station could jeopardise its value as the "shining beacon" of global atmospheric research.

Last week, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) said there could be three redundancies at its Lauder station as a result of a change in "strategic focus". The situation is still under review and a decision is expected soon.

The proposal has come under fire from several global atmospheric research organisations, along with scientists in Switzerland, Germany, the United States and England.

The organisations and scientists use the climate change and atmospheric data gathered at Lauder, and have aired their concerns to Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Environment Minister Amy Adams.

The Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC) co-ordinates data from 70 research stations around the world and focuses on stratosphere changes and global climate. Its co-chairmen have told the ministers the planned job cuts would leave the station with no measurement scientists "and essentially will destroy Lauder as a critical southern hemisphere measurement site".

Lauder had become a "global asset", primarily through its high quality data for the NDACC and for satellite calibration-validation, the chairmen said.

"It often is cited as a shining example of international co-operation in atmospheric science."

The Global Climate Observing System Reference Upper Air Network (GRUAN) is an organisation which provides long-term measurements of the atmospheric profile and has 15 sites around the world, stretching from Alaska to New Zealand.

Members of the group have told Mr Joyce and Ms Adams the Lauder facility is of "paramount national, regional and global value in informing the truly critical science questions of the day".

They also maintain it provides "critical support to global environmental monitoring".

"The Lauder facility, over a period of several decades, has proven time and again to be a shining beacon of global atmospheric research." The station should be maintained and developed for both the national and the global good, the organisation said, adding jobs cuts could leave the station under-resourced.

Niwa general manager of research Rob Murdoch said the Lauder station would continue to collect measurements for New Zealand's international and national priorities.

"No international commitments will be affected by this proposed change."


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