22 Nov 2013

Agresearch defends its restructure

3:08 pm on 22 November 2013

AgResearch executives have fronted at a farmer meeting in Wellington to defended the state science company's plans to relocate its operations to Palmerston North and at Lincoln.

There are fears in agricultural circles that regional agricultural science programmes will suffer when many AgResearch scientists are uprooted from their bases in Waikato and Otago.

Agresearch chief executive Tom Richardson told Federated Farmers' national council on Wednesday that a lot of myths are circulating about Agresearch's new footprint.

He says neither he nor AgResearch chairman Sam Robinson are smart enough to run multiple agends - there's been no pressure from the Government to relocate to Lincoln to support the Canterbury rebuild.

He says the planned shift is about getting the best science out of the limited resources that exist in New Zealand.

"AgResearch is not alone in New Zealand in having facilities that mostly well past their use-by date," he says.

"We've gotten to a crisis-point .. it's fantastic to walk into a lab and see 1950s stuff still working, and they're still doing good science with it."

But like most of the Western science sector , AgResearch has a wave of baby-boomer scientists retiring, and it has to attract young researchers over the next 10 or 15 years.

"We're really at a pivot-point - some of them come from polytechs that have better facilities than we do, and we really have to lift our game".

Mr Richardson says opponents of AgResearch's pending shift have made too much of the genetics hub in Invermay and Dunedin, as AgResearch's genetics relationship with Otago University consists of only a few people.