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‘Dark day for science and climate’: Up to 90 jobs to be cut at Niwa

Pierre Nixon,
Publish Date
Tue, 9 Apr 2024, 11:56am
Niwa is one of the Government's weather and climate agencies. Photo / Warren Buckland.
Niwa is one of the Government's weather and climate agencies. Photo / Warren Buckland.

‘Dark day for science and climate’: Up to 90 jobs to be cut at Niwa

Pierre Nixon,
Publish Date
Tue, 9 Apr 2024, 11:56am

Up to 90 jobs may be cut at Niwa as part of a swathe of roles being slashed across the public service.  

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) has told staff that 85 to 90 positions will be lost, of which 30 are currently vacant. 

The proposed cut amounts to more than one in 10 staff - about 13 per cent of its workforce. 

Niwa is a Crown Research Institute incorporated as a company. 

Ownership is held equally between two shareholding ministers appointed by the Government and governed by a Crown-appointed board. 

Niwa chief executive John Morgan said: “The economic challenges facing the country are impacting many public and private organisations, and Niwa is not immune. 

“We are working on a plan to ensure Niwa’s financial stability. In essence, we need to reduce our costs in line with the reduction in revenue Niwa is experiencing. 

“In addition to cuts in spending more broadly, the cost savings we need to make will require a reduction of 85 to 90 positions, about 30 of which are expected to be vacancies. 

“Although most positions at Niwa will remain, I acknowledge that this is a very unsettling time for us all. However, Niwa must remain viable to continue to provide the scientific advice the country needs.” 

Niwa confirmed the consultation and review process will be finalised over the course of this week. 

Public Service Association national secretary Duane Leo said: “This is just another dangerous consequence of the Government pulling back on science, decisions not based on any evidence. 

“This rushed and reckless approach will cost New Zealand in the long term. 

“Niwa maintains this will have no impact on its core work and is driven by the need to remain financially viable. 

“How does this make sense? The very agency charged with evidence-based research on critical climate, marine and other environmental issues should be getting more investment if the Government was serious about tackling those challenges.” 

The cuts are the latest to be revealed as public service agencies slash costs in response to the Government’s aim to find $1.5 billion savings per annum. 

Agencies are tasked with finding savings between 6.5 and 7.5 per cent to trim off their budgets, which, at numerous ministries, is resulting in proposals putting jobs on the line. 

Yesterday, NZME revealed the Environment Ministry needs to slash 7.5 per cent off its books, with final sign-off to be made by the Government in relation to the upcoming Budget next month. 

A voluntary redundancy scheme has opened at the ministry, with no set target for uptake. 

It comes after a similar scheme at the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment saw 111 people accepted for voluntary redundancy, with a further voluntary redundancy scheme being put in place. 

“As we saw with cuts to the workforce at the Environment Ministry and Callaghan Innovation, this Government’s poorly thought-through cost-cutting drive will see some of our best and brightest scientists and researchers lose jobs and go overseas,” Leo said. 

“The Government has the funds; it’s just choosing to give away $15 billion tax cuts rather than invest in critical public services like research and development.” 

“The Government talks about getting rid of ‘dumb stuff’ in the public service. Well, the Niwa cuts are just plain and simple dumb stuff and New Zealand will pay the price.” 

Pierre Nixon is the Herald’s South Island Breaking News Reporter based in Christchurch. He joined NZME in 2022 as a Multimedia Journalist for Newstalk ZB. 

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here. 

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