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Otago interests slam AgResearch moves

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/06/2016

A major rejig of the pastoral researcher AgResearch has been slammed as "really stupid" by those in Otago, which will be hard-hit by job losses at Invermay.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce this week approved AgResearch's business case to spend $133 million of its own money modernising its operations.

The Crown research institute says its Ruakura, Lincoln and Invermay facilities - some of which are outdated - are underused and their locations resulted from historical mergers rather than strategic planning.

"Hubs" in Palmerston North and Lincoln will do most of the food science and productivity research now, with Ruakura and Invermay focusing on specific issues.

It will mean nearly 200 jobs being moved over the next four years.

Mr Joyce said it was a strong business case and would modernise the facilities.

The investment would increase research capability and also hopefully attract scientists to work there, he said.

But it also means job numbers at Invermay, near Mosgiel, will drop from 91 to 35.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says moving the jobs north will be bad for the regional and national economy, particularly sheep farming.

"I think it was an ill-conceived plan at the beginning and I still think it's an ill-conceived plan," he told the Otago Daily Times.

Otago Innovation chief executive Pete Hodgson says an Otago "genetics cluster" involving Invermay, Otago University and the private sector had been around for decades.

Nearly all the work that had contributed to genetic improvements in sheep production came from Otago, the former Labour MP told RNZ.

"That cluster has delivered and it's about to be unpicked. It's really, really stupid."

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