Research hub plans gain speed

Last updated 05:00 31/05/2014

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AgResearch says its staff forced to relocate due to its $100 million redevelopment will have two years' guaranteed salary from when they move.

But there are still mixed views from those affected on the impact of AgResearch consolidating its resources.

Announcing the next phase of the proposal, AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson said plans had "significantly" advanced over the past few months.

The business had also revealed a few minor changes to its initial proposal but they all affected the company's South Island branch at Invermay, Dunedin. In Waikato, after the culling of 180 staff, no more major effects were expected.

Richardson said AgResearch was pleased that local businesses, the Hamilton City Council and other agencies were all behind the establishment of the Waikato Agricultural Hub at Ruakura.

"The cluster of Waikato-based agribusinesses, sector bodies and researchers gives this hub a running start to becoming an even stronger contributor to the regional and national economies, and as a stakeholder-driven organisation we are always responsive to new opportunities which may influence our future plans."

Richardson said the partners in the hub deserved plaudits for being able to look beyond the short-term impacts and implications of AgResearch reducing its staff numbers at Ruakura from 2017, and for seizing the opportunity that the renewed commitment to Ruakura created for the campus and the region.

But the move has drawn suspicion and anger from others within the sector, including Hamilton soil scientist Doug Edmeades, who believes it will have adverse implications for agricultural research in New Zealand.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) are also coy about the move, and want assurance of AgResearch's research outcomes and future science capability.

"BLNZ appreciates that the plan is not without risk," chairman James Parsons said. "Any restructuring proposal and relocation of staff is very unsettling and this proposal is no exception.

"BLNZ respects it is the call of the AgResearch leadership as to how it runs its business and where it locates its staff. However, before being satisfied, BLNZ requires more information that suitable plans and mitigations are in place so our research outcomes are not compromised and science capability is retained."

However, DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle welcomed the latest announcement, saying they were partners in the Waikato and Lincoln Agricultural hubs, which brought "a closer connection with our industry's needs".

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"It's obvious AgResearch has a big change process on its hands. It has consulted a great deal in recent months over its plans and has now made key decisions that will enable us all to move forward."

- Waikato Times

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