Dunedin mayor Dave Cull says government agencies are attacking his city's economy by shifting jobs north and the Prime Minister should personally intervene.
AgResearch on Wednesday revealed plans to move 85 scientists and support staff from the Invermay campus near Dunedin to Lincoln in Canterbury.
The relocation is part of a plan move 215 positions to Lincoln and about 45 to Grasslands in Palmerston North and involves 180 staff from Ruakura in Hamilton.
Agricultural research has been going on at Invermay, on Dunedin's Taieri Plain, since 1949 and the site has been through at least three major redevelopments.
Five years ago $17 million was spent on a new research building to boost scientific collaboration with Otago University, and Mr Cull says AgResearch is just throwing that money away.
In the past year, government agencies have decided to close the Dunedin's Hillside railway workshops, mail centre and immigration office.
Mr Cull and other leaders see in this a trend towards major government centralisation in the bigger northern centres, especially Christchurch and Auckland.
He says for Dunedin it means death by a thousand cuts and the Prime Minister should personally intervene to save Dunedin and the rest of provincial New Zealand.
However Economic Development minister Steven Joyce says people are in danger of seeing the negatives but not the positives.
He cites a recent announcement by Fisher & Paykel Appliances that it will create dozens of new jobs in the city and says Dunedin is performing strongly at the the moment. Mr Joyce says the research hub AgResearch is forming at Lincoln will benefit the whole of the South Island.