The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority will find a permanent home at the site of the former Armidale Club.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud and New England MP Barnaby Joyce and APVMA chief executive officer Chris Parker made the announcement at the Taylor and Beard Street site on Monday.
The former deputy prime minister said the agency would play a significant role in the “global task of feeding and clothing the world”.
“It shows our nations determination to build centres of excellence,” Mr Joyce said.
“With the start of construction of a major facility to show real confidence in our program of real decentralisation and more important to create the centres of excellence so we have the cross-fertilisation of intellects.
“Our world is going towards 10 billion people in 2050 and we have an obligation to do our part in feeding the globe – we do that by being at the cutting edge.
“This facility will also be so crucial in making sure we have an regulatory authority that is also proximate to people using the product.”
The contract to build the two-storey office at 91 Beardy Street and 102 Taylor Street was won Queensland- and Victoria-based developer Stirloch Group.
The site was the home of the Armidale Club before it was destroyed by fire in September 2016.
A coronial inquest, released in February, determined the blaze was deliberately lit but failed to find a culprit.
But the club’s owner-manager Kate Ricards told Fairfax Media, her 25-year lease there remains and plans legal action.
Dr Parker said he wasn’t going to comment on the ownership of the land.
“Given the very public nature of this move, I have ensured all the t’s have been crossed, and all due diligence has been done on the contract,” he said.
The agency has signed a 15-year lease with Stirloch.
“This is a significant milestone in the APVMA’s relocation from Canberra to Armidale,” Dr Parker said.
“More staff will relocate from Canberra and more jobs will be advertised that I hope will attract local talent from Armidale and the surrounds to help us deliver robust regulation and top rate services to Australia’s agvet chemical industry.”
The already have 15 staff at Beardy Street interim office, and the number is expected to double by the end of March.
The new building is expected to house about 150 staff by its completion in mid-2019.
Mr Littleproud, who took on Agriculture and Water Resources portfolio in December, said it was a big step for the government.
“There is no stepping back from this. It’s a big step forward,” he said.
“The move will create a vibrant hub where research and government services can drive agricultural productivity and deliver economic benefits to regional Australia.
“The APVMA received 450 applications to fill 30 vacancies towards a total of 150 jobs when the authority is fully up and running in Armidale, which shows people want to get on board with the authority in its new home.”