Delegates to a southern summit in Dunedin yesterday were united in their call for more investment in Invermay agricultural research centre.
And the message would be delivered in person to government ministers and the AgResearch board by a southern delegation within days, Mayor Dave Cull said yesterday.
His comments followed yesterday’s AgResearch-Invermay summit in Dunedin, which drew more than 50 delegates from organisations across the lower South Island.
The delegates spent much of the day discussing ways to save Invermay and boost the regional economy, before emerging with an action plan that was big on potential but light on detail.
The ”alternative proposition” would be for more investment to expand Invermay, while emphasising the national, as well as regional, economic benefits that would result, he said. . .
AgResearch’s purpose isn’t to provide economic benefits from its location,
It’s purpose is to do agricultural research.
. . . There was also agreement about the threats posed by AgResearch’s plan to shift 85 Invermay jobs to either Lincoln or Palmerston North.
Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said that included Invermay’s ”vital” research into improving water quality in Southland as land-use patterns continued to intensify.
She told delegates the Southland environment was ”very different” from Canterbury’s, and Invermay’s research needed to occur in southern conditions and be presented ”first-hand” to farmers to change habits.
”That won’t happen in Canterbury. It won’t happen in Massey University. That science needs to happen in Southland.” . . .
This is a valid argument, but AgResearch’s plan is not to close the research centre completely and it is possible that those who remain could still do this work.
Agricultural research can and does result in economic benefits at local, regional and national levels.
But it should be done where it is done best with the best use of limited money.
Whether or not that is at Invermay as it is, as a smaller centre or as a bigger one is debatable.
Morale has been low for years with scientists complaining they spend more time applying for funds than doing science.
That feeling probably isn’t peculiar to Invermay, or agricultural research but it reinforces the importance of making best use of what money AgResearch has.
As for regional development, the southern leaders should be looking inland to Queenstown where the winter games are taking place and will pump millions of dollars into the economy.
Games chief executive Arthur Klap said . . . ”there is a direct economic flow of somewhere between $3 million to $5 million” and on top of that the games spends around $3 million on organisation such as wages, stages and local bands.
”Fifty percent of our budget is locally spent.”
A key economic benefit of the games, he said, was that they attracted a large number of international athletes and their management, meaning ”it’s new dollars into the country”.
This year the games was investing $1 million in television coverage.
Thirty-eight broadcasters in more than 100 countries would be screening events. . .
Whether or not the delegation will alter the decision to reduce the Invermay workforce, southern leaders need to be looking to a range of opportunities for economic development.
Those in local government must also look at themselves to ensure they are doing all they can to reduce the costs of setting up and growing businesses.