Jobs lost as Niwa cuts studies at Miramar site

MATT STEWART AND TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2013

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The jobs cull in Wellington has continued, with Niwa confirming it has cut staff at a Miramar shellfish hatchery.

The jobs are to go at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research's hatchery at Mahanga Bay, at the northern end of Miramar peninsula.

Six science and technical positions would be lost, the institute said. Three would be re-established in Wellington and Whangarei, but the other three would go.

Niwa spokesman Geoff Baird said the Mahanga Bay hatchery had become too expensive and inefficient. Unfunded work being conducted there would stop, while climate change research into ocean acidification would continue.

"We don't have the funding," Mr Baird said.

Former Mahanga Bay hatchery manager Phil Heath said he took redundancy. "None of us wanted it but, in reality, companies are entitled to make these decisions and you just have to live with it."

Projects axed included research into selective breeding in paua, and sea cucumber cultivation.

Dr Heath has since started a private aquaculture consultancy.

Rongotai MP Annette King said New Zealand needed its scientists.

"You would be hoping they would be trying to find positions to employ our scientists . . . Science is the way of the future, if we're going to innovate and diversify from making milk."

The Niwa job losses came at the end of a bad week for Wellington, with the loss of jobs at NZ Post.

Unemployment in Wellington had hit 18-year highs, and restructuring in the public sector was partly to blame, Ms King said.

"What worries me is I don't see any leadership coming out of either Government or local government at the moment as to how we can hold jobs here."

A spokesman for Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said Mr Joyce had been advised the primary reason for closing the Mahanga Bay facility was to consolidate sites, in order to "enhance aquaculture research and services".

There was no concern about losing scientists to the private sector. The Government had "invested heavily in growing the science and innovation budget . . . despite the great financial crisis".

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- The Dominion Post

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