Claims deer industry relationship on rocks

AgResearch has denied its relationship with the deer industry has deteriorated. PHOTO: ALLIED...
AgResearch has denied its relationship with the deer industry has deteriorated. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES
Southland farmers are calling for an explanation on why the relationship between the deer industry and AgResearch is deteriorating.

An insider at the Crown Research Institute rejects the relationship has changed but the way the industry buys its research has.

The Southland branch of the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association proposed a remit for the association’s executive committee to request a public explanation from the Deer Industry New Zealand board on why the relationship was deteriorating and its plan to ensure a sustainable future in deer research.

Southland deer farmers and branch member John Somerville and branch chairman Tony Roberts were the respective remit nominator and seconder.

Questions asked in the remit included why the relationship had been severed, if it could be reversed and the board’s plans to replace the lost funding and deer expertise with the possible degrading of the AgResearch deer science capability.

The remit was unanimously supported at the association’s 49th annual meeting in Napier.

Mr Somerville, a former NZDFA executive committee chairman, who runs Arawata Deer in Pine Bush, told Southern Rural Life a funding agreement for deer research once involved AgResearch paying $2 for every $1 the industry provided.

The funding agreement had finished, changing the relationship between both parties, he said.

"We’ve gone from a strong position for a small industry to fighting for funding allocation."

Branch members were "annoyed" by the funding change and a lack of communication or consultation from the board on the reasons for it.

"We are trying to get answers on why it was changed and what it means for us now and what sort of research dollars we are going to have available to us."

AgResearch on farm sector manager Megan Skiffington, of Manawatū, said she had looked after AgResearch’s relationship with the deer industry for the past eight years.

She did not believe the relationship between the deer industry and AgResearch had deteriorated but a change in the way the deer industry had chosen to buy research could have been communicated better.

"That is not the relationship changing, that is the way they chose to buy research."

When asked if the change was moving away from AgResearch providing $2 of funding for every $1 the deer industry provided, she replied: "There was never a formal agreement in terms of how much was put in".

AgResearch had invested a lot of money in the deer industry for the past 50 years, Mrs Skiffington said.

"The deer industry used to purchase deer research over one big overarching programme but now they have to do it project-by-project."

Deer Industry New Zealand had committed to funding the "spectacular, well characterised genomic" deer herd at Invermay next year, Mrs Skiffington said.

She would not divulge the amount AgResearch had recently agreed to commit to spending on deer science for a 12 month period but it was more than the previous 12 month period.

"We’ve seen there is a change in how we do the process but we are still committed to buying good science as long as it is relevant to the industry."

DINZ interim chief executive Rhys Griffiths, of Wellington, said DINZ’s relationship with AgResearch was good and it was working to make it better.

"We are working to ensure AgResearch has long-term funding to align with our strategy."

DINZ was funding the elite deer breeding herd at Invermay and had established a research assessment panel to explore innovation and provide certainty for AgResearch, he said.


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