Plans for a $206 million research facility at Lincoln University have been scrapped.

And Selwyn MP Amy Adams has laid the blame for the failure at the feet of the Education Minister Chris Hipkins, saying the lack of support from the Government was a "slap in the face".

AgResearch has opted to ditch a planned joint facility with Lincoln University in favour of building its own facility at the campus.

Earthworks had already started on the 27,000-square metre facility, but the Government rejected a third business case seeking $85m in government funding for the joint facility in December.

AgResearch is now initiating a feasibility study to advance its long-standing strategy to build an innovation precinct in Lincoln.


"At present we are evaluating all options," AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson said.

"We remain committed to the principles of a campus development strategy that enables a more seamless collaboration between students, academics, researchers and business.

"To advance this process, AgResearch plans to build new facilities and offices for our staff which we can also share with other researchers and partners in the future.

"We will continue to talk to interested stakeholders about their future involvement. Our strategic plans, staff-relocation intentions remain unchanged."

The only change is it is no longer a joint project, which leaves the university, already likely to merge or form partnership with Canterbury University after issues around its financial sustainability and direction, in the lurch and out of pocket from the joint venture's collapse.

Lincoln University acting vice-chancellor Phil O'Callaghan said the university will continue to progress its own programme of capital works projects with recommendations to be considered by the university's council at the appropriate time.

"Lincoln University and AgResearch will continue discussions to look at options to realise the benefits of the joint-facility project," he said.

AgResearch's own build will be on the university campus but the where and when were yet to be decided, O'Callaghan said.


"This will form part of our own going discussions with timelines and details to be considered by the university's council and AgResearch board."

Adams laid the blame for the joint facility failure at the feet of the Education Minister, Chris Hipkins.

Selwyn District MP Amy Adams. Photo / NZ Herald
Selwyn District MP Amy Adams. Photo / NZ Herald

"This decision is a slap in the face for Lincoln University and our land-based sectors.

"I am astonished that the Government cannot grasp the importance of nurturing research that could help New Zealand and the global community meet the challenges of providing food for the world's population in an environmentally sustainable way.

"Unfortunately, the minister seems unwilling to recognise the critical role of Lincoln University as a niche provider of industry-focused tertiary education, as demonstrated by his previous efforts to force Lincoln to merge with Canterbury University.

Adams said Hipkins' rejection of the business case was a huge blow for Selwyn – as the facility would have been the largest land-based sciences research centre in the southern hemisphere.

"This is such a wasted opportunity to do something great," Adams said.

"This must be laid squarely at the feet of the Government playing games over the future of Lincoln Uni and the hub.

"Lincoln could make NZ the Silicon Valley of Agritech but this is just another way this Government has turned their backs on agriculture."

Award for building that will no longer be built

The design of the Lincoln University and AgResearch Joint Facility had architects Warren and Mahoney internationally recognised with the Best in Category Award for Education - Future Project at last year's World Architecture Festival.

However, after the groundworks were complete the project was left at a standstill when AgResearch and Lincoln University were unable find a contractor to meet their budget for the award-winning design.

There was criticism that the design of the proposed joint facility was too elaborate making the construction costs too high but O'Callaghan said efforts were made during discussions with the potential lead contractor to deliver the project on budget.

"During this time a number of value engineering initiatives were considered in order to make the build more affordable."

While they found some significant cost savings and settled on a preferred contractor in September, it was still not deemed affordable enough by Hipkins who withheld the $85m of government funding by declining the business case for a third time as the plan didn't meet Treasury guidelines.

It is understood that the funding is still on the table if the university can produce plans for a project with a complete business case including the cost, lead contractor and a construction plan in accordance with the Treasury guidelines.