Space centre fund decision pending

Steven Joyce.
Steven Joyce.
A Central Otago space research centre is still on the launch pad, awaiting a decision on whether it will be funded as a regional research institute.

The space centre and a satellite project based in Southland were still in the running for funding and both remained on the shortlist, with a decision pending, a spokeswoman for Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday.

Mr Joyce said the New Zealand Research Institute of Viticulture and Oenology in Marlborough had been chosen as the first new regional research institute.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was still working through the process with the other two shortlisted proposals and an announcement would be made ''in due course'', the spokeswoman said.

The Centre for Space Science Technology (CSST), led by Alexandra-based research company Bodeker Scientific, has requested $15million in funding. It would be based in Alexandra and have offices in Dunedin, New Plymouth and Lincoln.

The centre would research irrigation and agriculture, snow and ice, oceans and
atmosphere, regional planning and hazard management, data telemetry and forestry.

It would create about 70 to 80 jobs, half of which would be in Alexandra, and boost the Alexandra economy by an estimated $2.8million to $3.6million in its first three years.

Earlier this year, a spokeswoman for Mr Joyce said two or even three of the proposals could receive funding as regional research institutes.

Twenty-four proposals were considered before the number was narrowed down to three.

Initial funding for the viticulture institute would come from the Government and industry and it would operate as a private, independently governed organisation, Mr Joyce said.

''I look forward to seeing the results from this new institute benefit the Marlborough region and local and national players in the grape-growing and wine-making industries.''

The Southland project - Earth+Vantage - involved research using real-time satellite and ground-based data to lift primary industry productivity in New Zealand in areas such as precision farming, forestry and marine management.

Applications for a second regional research institutes funding round will open early next month.

The Government has earmarked a total of $65million to fund this regional initiative.

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