Facility on death row
THE once-prominent Grafton agricultural station appears to be dying a death of a thousand cuts.
Following the closure of the hardwood forestry research facility and changes to the fisheries research facility, it has now been confirmed there are no beef cattle researchers on site and all stock are to be moved to Glen Innes.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said he had been advised the facility would retain the capability of undertaking beef research in the future but, for now, there were no staff on site to do it.
Beef cattle research was once one of the main research functions undertaken at the centre, but it has been cut back progressively since the previous government announced it would close.
That decision was overturned in the wake of strong public protest, which was supported by the former member for Clarence Steve Cansdell who, as part of his protest, took a busload of protesters to Parliament House in Sydney.
Mr Gulaptis said the ag station occupied 800 hectares of land.
A spokesman for the department said up to 60 people were employed there. He said the centre was leading research in a number of areas including crop agronomy, fisheries and weeds.
He said Grafton was the coastal evaluation centre for the Australian Soybean Breeding Program, a national partnership between New South Wales DPI, CSIRO, Grains Research & Development Corporation and Soy Australia.
The Grafton Weeds Research Unit undertook research into agricultural and environmental weeds.
Fisheries research staff were undertaking research into the movement patterns and behaviour of key species including bass, cat fish, mullet and Murray cod.
Despite the losses at the centre, Mr Gulaptis predicted a bright future for agriculture over the next two to three years at least.
He said widespread rain across the state had boosted production and "could be the thing that pulls us out of the poo".
Mayor Richie Williamson, whose father was a beef cattle researcher at the station, said it was a disappointing outcome for the centre.
"I am bitterly disappointed," he said. "I would be very keen to hear what plans are in place for the facility."
But Cr Williamson said the site offered other opportunities.
"It would be a good spot for a university, especially with the strong rural linkages it has," he said.
He said a co-operative research centre, which links a university with industry, could be a possibility but such a move had not been part of discussions between the council and universities.