AgResearch warned over losing best staff

Last updated 10:02 09/04/2014

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A previous director of Invermay says AgResearch should not go ahead with its restructuring as it will lose its best staff and "spend a hell of a lot on buildings they don't really need".

Dunedin-based agri-businessman and consultant Jock Allison is against the multimillion-dollar revamp which will concentrate staff at Lincoln near Christchurch and at its Palmerston North Grasslands campus.

Allison said the restructure, called Future Footprint, would cost the largest Crown Research Institute some of its best staff.

He said in a letter to AgResearch chairman Sam Robinson: "It is about time that you pulled the dogs off before AgResearch is gutted further of their scientific talent. The morale at Palmerston North also seems to be at a very low ebb, also at Ruakura where there doesn't seem to be much of a community effort to assist," he said.

"You made the comment at the end of the farmers' meeting at Gore, that you were trying to deliver 'more research for less money' as a summary of the strategy. Nothing could be further from the truth as you replace already expensive and recent buildings and have a substantially reduced scientific complement (the science staff are the key) - the result will clearly be 'less science for a lot more money'."

A former AgResearch principal scientist, who had resigned over its restructuring plan, said morale was very low.

Former Palmerston North Grasslands scientist Dr Susanne Rasmussen said she was preparing to move back to Germany after 13 years at AgResearch.

The resignation was triggered by the Future Footprint reorganisation of AgResearch which will see campuses downgraded, and growth at Lincoln and Palmerston North. About 250 people are being asked to relocate.

Rasmussen said it was the splitting of her team which specialised in metabolomics (including identity of genes and analysing animal metabolics) that caused her to leave.

"At Grasslands the majority won't have to leave, but of those who do, most will leave. Key people are leaving the AgResearch. Those who might have to leave, it means they can't build a life and they are in scientific limbo."

Five staff had been appointed to manage the Future Footprint plan.

"You have to ask is this good use of the taxpayer and farmer funding. And there has been no cost/benefit analysis of the proposal."

On the closure of Wallaceville research station, 28 people were to be relocated, but in the end only eight went.

"The best scientists will leave. They have not been treated well. I think they'll go to universities."

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- Manawatu Standard

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