Moving the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to Armidale will have a “modest” benefit, an independent report has revealed.
The cost-benefit analysis, which New England MP Barnaby Joyce has been under pressure to release for months, also found only 15.2 per cent of staff were willing to follow the organisation to Armidale, forcing the government to pay $1.8m in redundancies.
There will be “significant” recruitment costs to replace the staff ($2.6m), and nearly $8m over five years in training costs.
“The regulatory scientific work that a large proportion of APVMA staff undertake is highly specialised and will take some time to develop the required skills for newly recruited employees,” the report said.
The “strategic and operational benefits” of moving the APVMA to Arimdale “appear to be limited” with high costs over the first five years.
“This is not to say that the APVMA could not operate successfully from Armidale over the longer term if key risks are addressed and transition is executed appropriately,” the report said.
Mr Joyce has said the move would cost taxpayers $26 million, but the cost-benefit analysis warned the economic toll of the move “could be significantly higher”.
However, there would be savings over the next 20 years driven by reduced property costs.
The relocation would contribute 189 ongoing jobs to Armidale, along with hundreds of construction jobs and other indirect jobs during the build.
Despite the lukewarm findings of the report, Mr Joyce is determined to push ahead with the relocation, which was recently approved by the cabinet, and expects the office to be open by March.
“Relocating the APVMA is an important next step to bring more quality jobs and expertise to Armidale and the surrounding region – an area with a strong history in agriculture,” Mr Joyce said.
“Staff who may be concerned about moving to Armidale should know we will work in partnership with the committee to ensure the smoothest transition possible.”