Final AgResearch decision disappointing in the extreme

AgResearch’s decision to go ahead with its controversial proposal to move large numbers of staff from the Invermay and Ruakura research centres will result in the loss of experienced and expert scientists, according to the Public Service Association.

AgResearch has made very slight changes to its proposal to shift 280 roles by 2016 as part of a major change in the distribution of resources and infrastructure.  180 roles were to be moved from Ruakura and 85 from Invermay in Dunedin, to campuses in either Lincoln or Palmerston North.  The adjustments mean it now plans to relocate 250 roles.

Staff were told the news today with many given individual letters telling them whether they were expected to relocate or not.

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff says many left the meetings confused and distressed and believe AgResearch went into the consultation process with the proposal already a done deal.

“This is disappointing in the extreme.  AgResearch was given a very strong message during the consultation period from its own staff, the science community and local bodies in Dunedin and Hamilton that the shift did not make sense for New Zealand’s agricultural research sector and would take a huge toll on the regional economics of both Dunedin and Hamilton.”

“Taking 180 roles out of Ruakura for example, won’t just mean the loss of 180 people from the region, it will also mean the loss of their families, so in reality the numbers will be much higher.  It’s hugely unsettling.”

The greater risk is that many staff will not relocate.

“We’ve heard from some of our members at Invermay that only about 20 per cent of the staff there would be willing to shift, while others say that rather than moving to Christchurch, they will head overseas.”

“That will result in a huge loss of capacity and expertise from New Zealand’s vital agricultural science and research sector which we can’t afford,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“It’s also important to point out that some of the staff at Invermay were moved from Wallaceville just a few years ago as part of a similar reorganisation of resources.”

The PSA says while the changes are planned over several years, staff are still reeling from the scale of the proposal and there will be a long period of uncertainty for them and their families.