A $75 million cash injection into Callaghan Innovation's Gracefield Innovation Quarter in the Hutt Valley will focus on making sure the ageing facilities - which have asbestos, leaking roofs, cladding issues and failing sewer pipes - are safe and fit for purpose.

"Investment in the site will mean that New Zealand's top scientists, engineers and researchers will have the modern facilities needed to help transform our economy to become more productive, sustainable and focused on growing R&D," said Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.

Funds will be used to refurbish existing buildings, including seismic strengthening for six buildings, urgent underground services improvements and urgent roof and weather tightness remediation.

They will also be used for a new building to meet the special requirements of the Measurement Standards Laboratory.

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The funding was initially announced as part of Budget 2019.

"Prolonged under-investment in the site over previous decades means the initial focus will be on remediation including seismic improvements, asbestos removal, roof and weather tightness." Callaghan Innovation said on its website. The 10-hectare site was originally established in the 1940s as the site for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

According to a May 2019 business case from Callaghan Innovation, every building on the Gracefield site has asbestos and "many require remediation works to manage or remove specific hazards."

It also noted that GlycoSyn stores chemicals in a temporary not fit-for-purpose area and while a future inwards goods store is planned "a temporary inwards goods area is urgently required for capacity in the interim."

The ageing facilities have asbestos, leaking roofs, cladding issues and failing sewer pipes. Photo/File
The ageing facilities have asbestos, leaking roofs, cladding issues and failing sewer pipes. Photo/File

Callaghan Innovation-owned GlycoSyn is a carbohydrate and complex chemistry expert and leader in the development and manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients for pre-clinical and clinical trials.

The business case also noted that some roof replacement is required as well as cladding remediation and said sanitation is at risk due to failing sewer pipes and continued potable water leaks, among other problems.

"Immediate action is required to ensure facilities are safe and fit for purpose for Callaghan Innovation staff and tenants, and to meet legislative and regulatory obligations," it said in a business case.

Gracefield Innovation Quarter is home to over 200 scientists, researchers and technicians, along with tenant businesses. It features state-of-the-art specialist workshops, pilot plants, labs and equipment, and world-class measurement facilities.

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After depreciation, the carrying value of the agency's buildings was $17.9 million and plant assets $18.4 million, as at June 30, 2018, according to Callaghan Innovation's annual report. The land was valued at $3 million.

The government funding means three new buildings can be built, as well as an extension to one building and extensive refurbishments to other existing buildings, said Woods in a statement.

According to Woods, last year around 270 companies benefited from the services provided by the quarter and with "this investment we hope to see that number grow, bringing us closer to achieving our coalition goal of increasing New Zealand's R&D spend to 2 percent of GDP by 2027."

Current R&D spending is $3.9 billion, or 1.37 percent of GDP.

- BusinessDesk