Agricultural research jobs in NSW could be at risk as union alleges funding withdrawn

A research project developing climate-resistant crops is at stake, with up to 30 research job losses possible in Wagga Wagga and Tamworth, according to the Public Service Association [PSA].

The project is a partnership between state and federal governments, announced five years ago to target the development of drought-resistant varieties.

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said the contract between the NSW DPI and the Grains Research and Development Corporation was due to end on June 30, with a new partnership currently being negotiated.

But a new partnership would depend on available funding, and PSA deputy secretary Troy Wright alleged that the state government withdrew funds for the current program.

Partnership “shortened”

Twenty jobs in Tamworth are at risk and 10 in Wagga Wagga.

“[The partnership] was cut short. It was announced five years ago but started three or four years ago,” Mr Wright said.

“It was cut short because the state government – the Perrottet government – decided to withdraw its funding.

“It was a partnership between the federal government and the state governments and without the involvement of the state government, the program fell apart.”

Mr Wright said affected research staff were still grappling with the news that they might not have a job.

“Obviously they are highly specialized, so it’s going to be very difficult.

“This government has talked a lot about jobs in the bush and these are jobs in the bush and every job in the bush supports the local economy.”

Impact on crop research

Mr Wright said there would also be significant impacts on research if a new partnership was not put in place.

“Crops have to be adapted. We have to find ways to deal with the more difficult climate that we are facing. It is a very vital role to provide objective, qualified and professional research that will improve the industry.”

In a statement to the ABC, NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said he was aware that the NSW DPI was currently negotiating with the Grains Research and Development Corporation regarding a future partnership.

Mr Saunders did not say whether existing jobs were safe.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation has also been contacted for comment.

Lana T. Arthur