Key defends AgResearch cuts

  • 22/09/2015
John Key (AAP)
John Key (AAP)

Prime Minister John Key is defending the government's attitude to research and development amid reports that AgResearch intends laying off science staff.

Waikato University agribusiness professor Jacqueline Rowarth says she's been told the cuts could involve 20 percent of the 500 or so research staff.

Prof Rowarth says she was originally told 82 staff were being laid off but the number had shifted to between 80 and 100.

Former AgResearch scientist Doug Edmeades says he's been told by a staff member redundancies will be announced on Thursday, and the cuts are due to a drop in funding.

Mr Key told reporters he didn't know any details of AgResearch's situation.

"The government's position on research and development is that we're big supporters," he said.

"Every year we put more money into it and certainly agri-science has been an important part of what we're doing."

He says that from time to time programmes are cut, and it wouldn't be the first time resources had been "moved around".

AgResearch isn't commenting on the reports.

Dr Edmeades said the lay-offs followed a general downward trend in government funding of agricultural research.

"What's happening is crazy when the biggest industry in New Zealand is agriculture," he said.

"This has been coming for some time and they put if off and put if off while awaiting the outcome of some funding proposals. Obviously the answer they got was no."

AgResearch's half-year report flagged that the CRI was unlikely to hit budgeted full-year revenue, primarily due to an unforeseen decrease in revenues from Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Primary Growth Partnership-related contracts.