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Nats’ science policy “A disgrace”

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Research, Science and Technology

2 October 2008
Embargoed till 5:30pm Media Release
Nats’ science policy “A disgrace”

The National Party science policy came in for some trenchant criticism today with Minister of Research Science and Technology Pete Hodgson labelling it “a disgrace”.

“I find it hard to believe that any major political party would be stupid enough to abolish the New Zealand: Fast Forward fund of $700m,” Pete Hodgson told the NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science political forum at Ruakura.

“This initiative has taken a lot of time and discussion to reach fruition. We are now at the point where nearly every major primary production sector has committed to co-invest, precisely because they can see that the government has put the money on the table up front.

“New Zealand: Fast Forward will lift our pastoral and food sectors to the next level. As a nation, we must improve our sustainability, we must address climate change, and we must produce new food products, food ingredients and nutriceuticals. We must also grow more internationally competitive companies such as Zespri or Fonterra and we must address skills shortages.

“New Zealand: Fast Forward is designed to do all that, and to do it in partnership with the primary sectors who will benefit.

“Scrapping the proposal is a disgrace; and the reason for National’s decision is even more disgraceful. Back in March when it was announced, National leader John Key, in an unguarded moment, called it “a gimmick”. National would prefer to ditch New Zealand: Fast Forward than have its leader do yet another U turn.

“But the price of that one stupid remark is that primary producers, deep down, would have less certainty of National’s commitment because any government funding would have to be won year on year. Inevitably private sector commitment would quietly evaporate and the chance to achieve a step-change in the engine room of our economy would be lost.

“National’s public rational for scrapping the scheme doesn’t bear the slightest scrutiny. They say that the scope of the fund is limited to R&D, when it is not. They say that private sector funding won’t be new and additional, when it will be. They say the fund will not use existing R&D infrastructure when it will.”


ENDS

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