In­ver­may staff seek de­tails on their fu­ture

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS MOR­RIS

AGRE­SEARCH is re­fus­ing to an­swer ques­tions about its com­mit­ment to keep­ing key staff at In­ver­may, as con­cern mounts that staff at the Dunedin re­search cam­pus are be­ing kept in the dark.

For­mer In­ver­may head Jock Allison said yes­ter­day he was aware staff at In­ver­may had been told the cam­pus was safe, but not specif­i­cally that sheep ge­net­ics and ge­nomics staff would re­main in Dunedin.

‘‘Some of the staff are pretty cyn­i­cal about where we are, as there has been no com­mu­ni­ca­tion with any staff, say­ing they will not have to shift to Lin­coln,’’ Dr Allison said.

It ap­peared Ag-Re­search was still ‘‘hell­bent’’ on build­ing a new fa­cil­ity at Lin­ coln, and there was no de­tail on whether the build­ing plan was be­ing scaled due to the de­ci­sion to keep staff in Dunedin, he said.

If the Crown Re­search In­sti­tute con­tin­ued to ‘‘ob­fus­cate’’ over the is­sue, that would ‘‘in­di­cate the need for more po­lit­i­cal ac­tion’’, Dr Allison said.

‘‘There is enor­mous ob­fus­ca­tion from Ag Re­search who have re­fused to dis­cuss their [Fu­ture Foot­print plan] with all and sundry for years.’’

De­spite that, Ag Re­search would not an­swer spe­cific ques­tions from the Otago Daily

Times last week or again yes­ter­day.

The ques­tions in­cluded ex­actly how many staff re­mained at In­ver­may, whether they had been specif­i­cally told they would no longer have to move, or un­der what cir­cum­stances they could yet be asked to re­lo­cate.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s me­dia li­ai­son per­son de­clined the ‘‘of­fer’’ to an­swer ques­tions, say­ing Ag Re­search did not have ‘‘any­thing fur­ther to add’’.

On Fri­day, the ODT re­ported a let­ter of ex­pec­ta­tion sent to Ag Re­search by Re­search, Sci­ence and In­no­va­tion Min­is­ter Me­gan Woods, stressed the need to main­tain In­ver­may as ‘‘a cen­tre of re­search for the pri­mary sec­tor, es­pe­cially in re­spect of sheep ge­net­ics and ge­nomics’’.

‘‘I ex­pect you to main­tain hu­man and phys­i­cal cap­i­tal al­ready de­vel­oped at this site,’’ she wrote.

Ag Re­search act­ing chair­man Dr Paul Reynolds wrote back to the min­is­ter, con­firm­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion was ‘‘com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing our hu­man and phys­i­cal cap­i­tal’’ at In­ver­may.

Dr Allison said yes­ter­day the let­ter of ex­pec­ta­tion had gone to AgRe­search in July, but only re­cently emerged on its web­site, and months later staff at In­ver­may were ‘‘still be­ing given the mush­room treat­ment’’.

He said it was ‘‘dis­grace­ful’’ that AgRe­search’s man­age­ment and board ‘‘have not, and do not seem able to, com­mu­ni­cate with staff [about] what the Me­gan Woods let­ter means to them’’.

It was a con­tin­u­a­tion of poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion with staff in the six years since the pro­posal to re­lo­cate up to 85 In­ver­may staff to other cam­puses, as part of the Fu­ture Foot­print plan, was first re­vealed, he said.

‘‘This has re­sulted in con­sid­er­able staff un­rest, and has meant that many staff have moved on, and the un­cer­tainty has also cause prob­lems with re­cruit­ment . . . all of this erod­ing any ca­reer struc­ture in Sci­ence with par­tic­u­larly toxic ef­fects down here.’’

Jock Allison

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