Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Deer industry doubts on AgResearch restructure

The proposed restructure of AgResearch will present serious challenges for the New Zealand deer industry, its leaders say.

The plan to shift 85 jobs at Invermay, near Dunedin, to Lincoln or Palmerston North will risk the loss of the deer research focus group at Invermay.

For deer farmers this would be catastrophic.

The Invermay group’s history and skills were well demonstrated and were in tune with the deer industry, NZ Deer Farmers’ Association (DFA) chairman Kris Orange said.

The limited number of staff proposed to be retained in the region would not have the critical mass necessary to maintain the facility and would risk losing committed, skilled people to the deer industry, Orange, a southern deer farmer, said.

“There is huge risk for our industry if this (AgResearch) proposal is allowed to proceed.

“At this stage I can’t see any benefit to deer farmers. In fact, it is harming what we (farmers) do.

“Certainly deer farmers don’t see any upsides and we are waiting to hear something positive.”

There had been so much good come out of Invermay for the deer industry the proposal made no sense, he said. Included in the loss would be walking away from the $30 million-$40m spent on new infrastructure in recent years.

Orange said he was aware of staff who had been told they would not be going to Lincoln and would be re-located north instead and he knew of some who had said they would not move.

Lincoln was not a suitable option and deer farmers would be shaking as many trees as possible to voice discontent.

“We are pretty heated about this and we are going through the processes of what we can do. At the moment we have little detail and that is frustrating,” Orange said.

The proposal was initially for internal consultation with AgResearch staff but DFA had managed to get an update from Dr Jason Archer, the industry’s contact with Invermay.

Deer Industry NZ (DINZ) producer manager Tony Pearse understood the Lincoln emphasis would be behind the farmgate and Grasslands more post-farmgate.

The remaining 30 staff at Invermay would focus on environment management and farm systems, including dairying wintering practices.

“There is huge risk for our industry if this (AgResearch) proposal is allowed to proceed. At this stage I can’t see any benefit to deer farmers. In fact, it is harming what we (farmers) do.”

Kris Orange

NZ Deer Farmers’ Association

Five of the key deer positions would relocate to Lincoln, along with the genomics programme and reproduction group, Pearse said. Animal Health would move to Palmerston North.

While the restructure plan would dispose of about 50% of farms, AgResearch hadn’t decided yet which farms would go.

Pearse said AgResearch had committed to deer and DEEResearch, with another six years of funding to the venison supply systems research programme that aimed to help the deer industry improve its profitability.

What was also concerning DFA, particularly the Otago, South Canterbury, and Southland branches, was the limited consultation with the industry.

The DFA executive committee had sent information to members and DINZ would be working with the executive on a submission.

DINZ chief executive Dan Coup said there would be big changes for the industry to manage if the proposal went ahead.

The deer industry had a longstanding and valued relationship with AgResearch and Coup was hopeful that relationship would continue.

“In the balance we don’t have the information at this stage to say whether the risks will outweigh the benefits,” he said.

“Once they (AgResearch) nail down the plan we are hopeful we will get the opportunity for consultation in specific areas of concern linked to the deer industry.”

Related story: Deer farmers urged to fight for Invermay

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