Most of the publicity and lobbying over AgResearch’s proposal to move most of its staff from Invermay to Lincoln has been directed at the government because it’s a crown entity.
However, it has an independent board and around half its funding comes from the industry and one of those funders is now raising concerns:
If there are not the skills to conduct key research AgResearch may lose beef and lamb industry funding, Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Mike Peterson says.
B+LNZ had been up front all the way over proposals to downsize AgResearch’s Invermay campus near Dunedin under the Crown research institute’s Future Footprint (FFP) plan, Petersen said.
However, the reality was if the skills were lacking there would be nothing to fund and that would put future research funding at risk.
“It’s the reality. If there are no researchers to do the work we need done then there will be nothing to fund (at AgResearch),” Petersen said. . .
Most staff at Invermay aren’t just saying they don’t want to move to Lincoln, they’re saying they won’t move.
B+LNZ spent $5 million annually funding research at AgResearch and that was boosted a further $20m by partnership funding, including the Government.
“We (B+LNZ) generate $25m worth of research activity each year,” Petersen said.
To continue to do that, access to key skills remained crucial.
“But we are not going to use that as a stick on AgResearch over where and how it locates staff.
“But if we can’t get access to key capability then one option is the funding will not be available.”
Losing key staff would have a huge impact on AgResearch capability.
. . . He acknowledged there was pressure from southern farmers for B+LNZ to oppose AgResearch’s FFP.
“I am aware that there are farmers, particularly down south, that think we should be up in arms but at the end of the day this is an AgResearch board decision and we have been given the assurances we have been looking for at this stage,” he said.
Farmer concerns were being taken seriously and B+LNZ would look into remits issued by the Southern South Island and Central South Island sheep councils opposing the shift of staff from Invermay to Lincoln.
Where the scientists were located was not necessarily the issue for B+LNZ, Petersen said.
“Our issue is will the (key skilled) scientists in fact be there to do our research?
“It could be that scientists decide not to move and then AgResearch might then decide to retain them at Invermay. Invermay, or Lincoln, is not the big deal for us – it’s the access to the capability.”
The concern for B+LNZ isn’t about the location, it’s about capability and there are serious questions about whether AgResearch would retain that if AgResearch goes ahead with its plan to gut Invermay.