Research centre may close
A horticultural research facility at Alstonville could soon face the threat of closure if the NSW government decides to sell the land the facility has been built on.
Ballina MP Don Page said the Alstonville Centre for Tropical Horticulture, run by the Department of Primary Industries, was first earmarked for closure in the NSW Government’s mini-budget in 2008 and that now, with a potential threat of closure back on the agenda, he is calling for reassurance from the government that the centre will be retained.
Mr Page said the land the research facility was built on had been donated to the Department of Agriculture for research purposes about 30 years ago.
“My fear is that this cash-strapped NSW Labor Government can see the huge financial gains that could be made by selling off this prime piece of real estate on the Alstonville Plateau,” Mr Page said.
Mr Page said the research centre was an important facility to retain in our local area as tropical horticulture is the largest agricultural industry on the North Coast and has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars each year to the local economy. The research station is currently conducting vital research in areas such as canopy management, plant physiology, soil science and entomology. Mr Page said the Government will try to justify the decision by saying the centre will be relocated to the agriculture research facility at Wollongbar, however years of research will be lost with the specialised research crops that are currently growing at the Alstonville station.
“There are research plantations here of trees such as macadamias which have taken years to grow,” Mr Page said. “The local industry deserves some assurance that the vital research facility will not be lost.”
Sources have indicated that a meeting is likely to take place this week between research centre staff and NSW government representatives. A representative from the Department of Primary Industries said that in 2009, the NSW government announced that research at the Alstonville centre would continue, but that staff would eventually relocate to Wollongbar. He also said that staff has been assured that they would continue to have access to research tree plantings on the site and that as far he was aware, discussions were continuing with Southern Cross University in relation to forming a partnership with the centre into the future.