Sunday, July 3, 2022

AgResearch to focus on two sites

AgResearch proposes moving its headquarters to Lincoln and consolidating science and technical support staff members on two campuses – Lincoln near Christchurch and Grasslands in Palmerston North.

Already the biggest site for science workers, Grasslands would miss out on the head office because Canterbury offered the bigger population base for retention and recruitment.

Under the proposal for staff consultation over the next two months Ruakura would lose the AgResearch management team and support staff within a total of 280 relocations, chief executive Tom Richardson said.

Ruakura would be downsized two-thirds to 90 positions and Invermay near Dunedin would be the smallest campus with just 30 roles instead of the current 115.

Grasslands with about 300 roles in future would focus on food, nutrition, animal health and forage.

Lincoln with 330 roles would focus on farm systems and land use as well as sheep, beef and deer productivity, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics platforms.

“These locations have the right ingredients to create successful innovation hubs: the presence of agriculture-focused tertiary institutions, other large research organisations, industry bodies and private sector companies,” Richardson said.

He called the proposal a once-in-a-generation opportunity to modernise science facilities, co-locate capability where possible and achieve better outcomes for the agriculture sector.

“Two large AgResearch campuses with a higher number of co-located teams and staff will see much more knowledge-sharing and internal collaboration resulting in more quality science being delivered.”

Tom Richardson

AgResearch

Richardson said the reinvestment of $100 million in buildings and resources earlier approved by the Government had not yet begun and was subject to the staff consultation and discussions with other research providers.

For example, AgResearch at Grasslands might share facilities and major pieces of equipment with Fonterra’s dairy research centre on the same site.

“Two large AgResearch campuses with a higher number of co-located teams and staff will see much more knowledge-sharing and internal collaboration resulting in more quality science being delivered.

“Since the high-level proposal was announced in late April many other organisations have contacted us to express interest in being involved in the innovation hubs.”

He did not want to comment on specific building plans, for instance the Ruakura tower block which houses the management team, except to say that vacated rooms could be used by other organisations.

The Ruakura transformation is not dictated by Tainui ownership of the land because AgResearch has a perpetual lease and plans for re-development which include Innovation Waikato have already been made.

AgResearch is also proposing to sell about half of its 13 nationwide farms, beginning with Flock House, near Bulls.

Richardson said the consolidation proposal was not the end of provincial representation in key farming regions nor was it designed to shrink staff members and make redundancies.

If proceeded with, the loss of jobs would be small, confined to facility maintenance and IT.

No roles would be required to relocate before 2016, with a minimum of six months’ notice.

Relocation costs will be paid.

Related stories: AgResearch shake up ‘cuts in disguise’AgResearch plans its future footprint

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