Now updated with images from concept drawings: see end of article.
A large agricultural science hub based on AgResearch has been announced to be established near Lincoln University, a few kilometres from Christchurch.
AgResearch is New Zealand‘s largest non-University scientific research organisation, based in a number of centres throughout the country, including Palmerston North and near Dunedin (Invermay). Lincoln University is an agriculture-focused university near to Christchurch, the scene of large earthquakes in September 2010, February 2011 and through 2011.
AgResearch is planning to invest $100 million in facilities and resources over the next four years to boost scientific support for what is New Zealand’s largest economic sector and most important industry.
“This represents the largest investment programme focused on agricultural science in AgResearch’s history and will better position us to help the pastoral sector sustainably improve productivity, export performance and deliver greater value to the New Zealand economy,” says AgResearch Chairman Sam Robinson.
“We are proposing to have a focus on farm systems, environmental science and dairying at our Ruakura campus in Hamilton. Much of the beyond-the-farm-gate science is proposed to be at our Grasslands campus in Palmerston North. At Lincoln we are proposing to concentrate many of our on-farm research areas and our Invermay campus, near Dunedin, is proposed to predominantly focus on environmental and farm systems capability,” says Dr Richardson.
He says now that the programme has the support of shareholding Ministers, work will commence with a detailed design and consultation phase.
“Our first priority is working through the programme in detail with our staff. We will also be working with our scientific collaborators and sector partners to progress this investment.”
The new investment programme, starting this year, will be funded predominantly through the disposal of existing under-utilised assets, and will not require any new Government investment to be provided.
There are few additional details from current media reports, the main ones being that it is anticipated that around 900 staff will work at the hub, that the proposal was “put to the government by five partner organisations – AgResearch, DairyNZ, Landcare Research, Lincoln University and Plant and Food Research” and that the construction of the hub is targeted to begin in 2014.
Reports point to the hub being partly due to Lincoln University needing to rebuild it’s science facilities after the earthquakes.
Without meaning to play on any fears, I wonder if the phrase “will be funded predominantly through the disposal of existing under-utilised assets” will concern some. It might be read as trying to put a favourable spin on shutting some things down.
Much will await detailed plans and the time-frames they anticipate, and the extent they intend to move staff and research projects.*
Thoughts welcome in the comments below.
Initial comment from DairyNZ is also available.
* Shifting experimental work can be a major effort. (By contrast, my own line of work—computational biology—can readily be moved on fairly short notice and can be done from pretty much anywhere with good internet access.)
I found on the Beehive website a PDF file of the concept drawing for the hub. If you want details, you’re best to explore the PDF, as you can zoom in, but I’ve placed a few image below to give readers some idea of the layout. This will, naturally, make more sense to locals or people who have visited Lincoln. The bottom left is Lincoln University. To the top-right is the Plant and Food campus. To the right of Lincoln University is the township centre. The green line is a cycle path. You’ll note there is ‘medium density housing’ planned as part of the hub (between the academic core part and the supermarket). I may add more images later, but readers are best to view the PDF if they wish to explore.
I’ve zoomed into the central part of the hub here:
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