NIWA proposes cutting up to 90 jobs amid public service cuts

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is set to lose up to 90 jobs as public services scramble to meet the Government's cost-cutting targets by the upcoming Budget.

NIWA, which is a Crown Research Institute incorporated as a company, has told staff between 85 and 90 positions will be lost, of which 30 are currently vacant. The proposed cuts amount to 13 percent of its workforce.

"The economic challenges facing the country are impacting many public and private organisations, and NIWA is not immune," NIWA chief executive John Morgan said in a statement to Newshub.

"Although most positions at NIWA will remain, I acknowledge that this is a very unsettling time for us all. However, NIWA must remain viable to continue to provide the scientific advice the country needs."

Morgan said the institute is working on a plan to ensure NIWA's financial stability.

"In essence, we need to reduce our costs in line with the reduction in revenue NIWA is experiencing. And we need to do so without compromising the delivery of NIWA's core purpose as a climate, freshwater and ocean science provider, whilst at the same time meeting NIWA's obligation as a Crown Research Institute to be financially sustainable."

The consultation and review process will be finalised over the course of this week.

The Public Service Association is calling the cuts "utter madness" at a time when the climate crisis is worsening.

"This is just another dangerous consequence of the Government pulling back on science, decisions not based on any evidence. This rushed and reckless approach will cost New Zealand in the long term," PSA national secretary Duane Leo said.

NIWA's proposal follows recent announcements of job losses from the Ministry for the Environment and government science agency Callaghan Innovation.

On Monday, the environment ministry asked for voluntary redundancies before a likely formal change proposal process will commence. The number of employees impacted remains unclear but it could see hundreds of workers at the ministry lose their jobs.

At Callaghan Innovation about 30 science and engineering jobs at Callaghan Innovation are set to go as part of a "strategic reset". 

"Why do this now when climate change is upon us, when the frequency of storm events is increasing rapidly, and our freshwater resources are in a fragile state?" Leo said.

"The Government has the funds; it's just choosing to give away $15 billion tax cuts rather than invest in critical public services like research and development."

The cuts are in response to the Coalition Government's directive to public services to cut costs by between 6.5 and 7.5 percent to help reduce annual public service spending by $1.5 billion.

As a result, announcements of job cuts across the sector have been pouring in, the most recent being 35 to 40 jobs cut at the Commerce Commission.

So far, the Ministry for Primary Industries is looking to cut the most jobs, proposing to disestablish 384 roles.