7 Oct 2013

Reassurance sought over research programmes

7:01 pm on 7 October 2013

AgResearch's campus restructuring plans are getting support from some agri-businesses, while others in the agricultural sector push for reassurances they won't compromise their research programmes.

The Crown Research Institute has confirmed its intention to expand its bases at Lincoln and Palmerston North by relocating 250 staff from Ruakura in Hamilton and Invermay in Otago.

Invermay will be left with only 33 staff, fuelling a local body-led campaign in Otago and Southland against the move.

The deer industry has an ongoing research partnership with AgResearch, mostly centred at Invermay.

Deer Industry New Zealand deputy chair, Wanaka farmer Jerry Bell, said it had been reassured deer research programmes would not be undermined but they were still trying to ascertain the details of the plan.

"We sat down with the head of AgResearch and sought specific reassurances that the programmes that we had in place ... would be committed upon by them," Mr Bell said.

The organisation also sought reassurance AgResearch would meet its contractural arrangements around a productivity improvement programme for the next five years.

"So they came back to us and have said that there will be no scientific or technical redundancies," he said.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand had also been seeking assurances its research interests with AgResearch would not be harmed.

Chief executive Scott Champion said the main concern for sheep and beef farmers was the animal genetics research based at Invermay.

"The continuity around that I think is really important for the industry," Mr Champion said.

"We'll continue to watch that to make sure that that capability and that capacity is still there, and that's the key thing that interests us as an organisation.'"

Meanwhile, meat processor and exporter, ANZCO Foods, is supporting AgResearch's reorganisation, saying it will deliver more value to the primary sector.

Dairy New Zealand chief executive Tim Mackle said it supported AgResearch's plans to strengthen its organisation, as long as it kept top-quality scientists in the regions where dairy research was ongoing.

"We have a lot of work going on in Southland and Otago now, with AgResearch and with other partners, and that's going from strength to strength," Mr Mackle said.

"And, of course, the Waikato still remains a very large dairying region for us, so what we'll be looking for from AgResearch are good-quality people in those regions. It's not just a numbers game. It's about good-quality people as well."

Canterbury dairy company Synlait backed AgResearch's move to consolidate its resources, especially the innovation hub at Lincoln.