“I’ve met with the heads of other crown research institutes, government officials and representatives from across the primary sector, and I’ve been really heartened to see the agreement on the science that needs to be done,” Sue says.
“It seems we’re really clear on the work that is needed to take agriculture on a continuously improving journey, which is exciting.”
That alignment is around quality research that allows the primary sector to make gains in areas like greenhouse gas emissions, water quality, animal welfare, provenance and deeper scientific understanding of what New Zealand products can offer.
“What I have found is that our partners, without fail, are positive about the work we do. They are clear about the importance of good science. They want that science for impact now – we need to be giving them stuff they can use - but equally they understand the value of investing in that `horizon’ science that can really change the game longer-term for the sector.”
Sue is the first female chief executive of any of New Zealand’s seven crown research institutes in a quarter of a century. It’s not something she’s given much thought to: “I suppose I’m just me, and I do what I do. But I do recognise that it has some meaning and it comes with some responsibility too”.
Mostly, Sue is just excited about being involved in science now when New Zealand is coming through a pandemic, as well as many other longer-term disruptions.
“The whole country has seen how important good science is for the wellbeing of New Zealanders, and AgResearch is at the forefront of that good science. That includes a focus on helping New Zealand recover from this pandemic. You talk to our scientists, and they are fizzing as they tell you about the amazing work they are doing, and you can’t help but be inspired by it.”
Sue’s appointment to the top job at AgResearch is something of a return to her early career roots. After growing up in the Hutt Valley, Sue started her career as a laboratory technician at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Wallaceville campus (an AgResearch predecessor organisation) in her late teens before gaining a PhD from Otago University. Her roles in central and local government, most recently as chief executive at Dunedin City Council, set her on a path to joining AgResearch last year.
While Sue meets often with AgResearch’s partners and stakeholders, she also looks a lot to Stu Hall as her Deputy Chief Executive for commercial partnerships to provide those regular interactions and build relationships.
“Stu brings a lot of experience and connections from working in the primary sector, which I appreciate, and I know that our stakeholders enjoy having him as a go-to person at AgResearch too.”
*Sue recently spoke about her role and views to Radio New Zealand. You can listen here(external link).