‘Unsettling Time’: 30 Jobs Proposed To Go At Forestry Research Institute Scion

Published: Wed 15 May 2024 06:44 PM
Rotorua crown research institute Scion is reviewing 30 of its scientist, technician and support staff roles. Photo / Supplied
Thirty jobs are proposed to be cut at Scion, the forestry-focused Crown research institute based in Rotorua, as it looks to secure “ongoing viability” through economic challenges.
As various public sectors face shedding hundreds of jobs in the Government’s drive to cut costs, Rotorua’s MP says Scion’s proposal was a commercial decision, not a Governmental one.
The institute says while it has not been affected by Government budget cuts to the public service, it has been hit by a reduction in Government and industry spending on research.
Scion chief executive Dr Julian Elder told Local Democracy Reporting it had identified 30 jobs for review amid economic challenges and in anticipation of a dip in contracts in the next year.
“That has made it clear that for next year we are facing a reduction in the work we expect to be doing, and so we will not be able to retain the number of staff that we currently have.”
Its goal was to align capacity and capability with expected work in years ahead, “while safeguarding Scion’s role as a provider of forestry research, industrial biotechnology and advanced manufacturing expertise”.
Elder said it identified areas it could cut costs and assessed work across all scientific and support areas to find 30 roles for review.
“We’ll consider these positions further in discussions with those affected staff over the next few weeks.”
Scion could not provide more detail on what roles would be affected until the consultation ended.
“While most staff aren’t directly impacted by the proposed cuts, we acknowledge it is an unsettling time for everyone at Scion right now.
“We are working through this process with care and respect for our people and their families.”
Elder said the forest and bio-economy had enormous potential to grow the economy while meeting the climate change challenge.
“The steps we are taking are essential to secure Scion’s ongoing viability so we can continue to provide leading scientific research. That is so important for the sustainable development and growth of New Zealand’s forestry and biotechnology sectors, which are significant contributors to the economy.
“However, shifts in government priorities and the effect of the current economic situation on research spending by government and industry are impacting the amount of work that Scion is being contracted to deliver.”
Scion declined to answer further Local Democracy Reporting questions to respect the internal consultation process under way.
Rotorua MP and forestry minister Todd McClay said there had been no changes to the way it funded Scion and the proposal was a commercial decision.
“This is not a result of cost-cutting from the Government.”
He understood a mixture of international and local jobs would be reviewed.
McClay said he had full confidence in Scion and the opportunities it could provide the forestry sector, which was such a large part of the Rotorua economy, and expected work would pick up.
The Public Service Association said most of the proposed role cuts were in Rotorua and was about 10 per cent of Scion’s workforce.
Union assistant secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said Scion was helping to grow a “valuable exporter earner” and science was key to future prosperity and ensuring climate change adaptation.
“Scion is all about the productivity of forestry - helping grow higher value trees, improving land management, researching more efficient harvesting practices and the impacts of climate change on forests.”
Rotorua Mayor Tania Tapsell said Scion was among other large and small organisations needing to find efficiencies.
She said the institute played an important role in the future of forestry, which was a critical part of the local economy.
The institute attracted highly skilled employees from overseas.
She said she believed the large organisation would make smart decisions to enable continued investment “to keep Rotorua as an industry leader”.
“Research is crucial for growth in the forestry and biotechnology industries.”
Tapsell said she had empathy for the organisation making the decision, and for employees, and hoped certainty would come soon.
When asked what impact it would have on Rotorua if the jobs were lost, she said she hoped there were other opportunities in the city to keep the highly qualified people here.
Science innovation and technology Minister Judith Collins and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment have been approached for comment.
- LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.
Laura Smith - Local Democracy Reporter
Content from the Local Democracy Reporting (LDR) service is published by Scoop as a registered New Zealand Media Outlet LDR Partner.
Contact Lois Williams - Local Democracy Reporter

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