Invermay staff seek details on their future

Jock Allison
Jock Allison
AgResearch is refusing to answer questions about its commitment to keeping key staff at Invermay, as concern mounts that staff at the Dunedin research campus are being kept in the dark.

Former Invermay head Jock Allison said yesterday he was aware staff at Invermay had been told the campus was safe, but not specifically that sheep genetics and genomics staff would remain in Dunedin.

‘‘Some of the staff are pretty cynical about where we are, as there has been no communication with any staff, saying they will not have to shift to Lincoln,’’ Dr Allison said.

It appeared AgResearch was still ‘‘hell-bent’’ on building a new facility at Lincoln, and there was no detail on whether the building plan was being scaled due to the decision to keep staff in Dunedin, he said.

If the Crown Research Institute continued to ‘‘obfuscate’’ over the issue, that would ‘‘indicate the need for more political action’’, Dr Allison said.

‘‘There is enormous obfuscation from AgResearch who have refused to discuss their [Future Footprint plan] with all and sundry for years.’’

Despite that, AgResearch would not answer specific questions from the Otago Daily Times last week or again yesterday.

The questions included exactly how many staff remained at Invermay, whether they had been specifically told they would no longer have to move, or under what circumstances they could yet be asked to relocate.

The organisation’s media liaison person declined the ‘‘offer’’ to answer questions, saying AgResearch did not have ‘‘anything further to add’’.

On Friday, the ODT reported a letter of expectation sent to AgResearch by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, stressed the need to maintain Invermay as ‘‘a centre of research for the primary sector, especially in respect of sheep genetics and genomics’’.

‘‘I expect you to maintain human and physical capital already developed at this site,’’ she wrote.

AgResearch acting chairman Dr Paul Reynolds wrote back to the minister, confirming the organisation was ‘‘committed to maintaining our human and physical capital’’ at Invermay.

Dr Allison said yesterday the letter of expectation had gone to AgResearch in July, but only recently emerged on its website, and months later staff at Invermay were ‘‘still being given the mushroom treatment’’.

He said it was ‘‘disgraceful’’ that AgResearch’s management and board ‘‘have not, and do not seem able to, communicate with staff [about] what the Megan Woods letter means to them’’.

It was a continuation of poor communication with staff in the six years since the proposal to relocate up to 85 Invermay staff to other campuses, as part of the Future Footprint plan, was first revealed, he said.

‘‘This has resulted in considerable staff unrest, and has meant that many staff have moved on, and the uncertainty has also cause problems with recruitment ... all of this eroding any career structure in Science with particularly toxic effects down here.’’

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