Praise for Cawthron Institute's work

The chief science adviser to Prime Minister John Key has heaped praise on the Cawthron Institute in a tour of its Nelson labs and Glenhaven Aquaculture Centre.

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman visited the independent research centre yesterday.

Professor Gluckman said he last visited Cawthron in 2005, in another role, and heaped praise on the "confident" and "forward-looking" institute.

"I think there's an awareness in the scientific community of how important this place is," he said.

He spoke to a number of scientists, including Dr Tim Harwood, an analytical chemist working on a Cawthron-led seafood safety programme.

He is working with a consortium of scientists from AgResearch, Plant and Food Research, and Environmental Science and Research.

They are looking at micro-organism risks to New Zealand seafood, and its associated industries, to ensure ongoing market access.

The six-year programme comes to an end this year, but Cawthron is putting in a bid to continue for another six.

Dr Harwood said the "fork in the sand" for the seafood safety programme was 20 years ago, when a large harmful algal bloom in the Bay of Plenty shut the entire shellfish industry across New Zealand.

He said it was "totally unclear" what was going on at the time, and there had been a good monitoring programme in place since then.

Dr Harwood said scientists had a good handle on key marine toxins, and were researching new threats.

"There are other toxins in other parts of the world which could turn up here," he said.