Key players endorse hub proposal

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 08:58 28/02/2014
Wallaceville, Upper Hutt, closed in 2008 and its land is now for sale.
Fairfax NZ
Science-education base: Agresearch at Ruakura in Hamilton

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Work to transform Waikato into the nation's sustainable agriculture "powerhouse" took another step forward with city bosses endorsing plans to create a Waikato Agricultural Hub.

The hub's focus will be to encourage research, education and innovation between key players in the agricultural sector, with agri-sector heavyweights such as DairyNZ and Landcare Research backing the initiative.

Fostering the region's science-education base became a contentious issue during last year's local government elections after AgResearch announced plans to relocate up to 180 jobs from its Ruakura campus.

Speaking at the time, one-time Hamilton Mayor and regional councillor Bob Simcock said Ruakura was New Zealand's only globally recognised science brand but political inaction had allowed it to be devalued.

The Hamilton City Council's business and investment subcommittee yesterday endorsed a proposal to create a Waikato Agricultural Hub with the council as a member.

Mayor Julie Hardaker predicted the hub would become one of the region's success stories.

A council report said the AgriHub proposal was a response to similar hubs being set up in Massey and Lincoln as well as decisions by AgResearch and other crown research institutes over future investment.

The hub will focus on sustainable farming practices, agritechnology industries and agribusiness education.

Ms Hardaker said the hub would build on the region's unique strengths.

She said the city had a highly developed commercial sector when it came to agriculture "so we have the ability to commercialise innovation and research". "It will be one of the strengths of the hub."

Councillor Angela O'Leary said the hub proposal had an "incredibly clear" vision and goals and expressed surprise such a concept had not been tried before.

Ms Hardaker said there had been many attempts over the last decade to create a similar hub but getting key players to collaborate had proved hard.

aaron.leaman@waikatotimes.co.nz

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