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Te Papa offers new job to scientist it made redundant

Report from RNZ
Te Papa has backtracked on its decision to make a fish expert redundant.

A source within Te Papa has confirmed that Andrew Stewart has now been offered an assistant curator role, after he lodged an appeal against his redundancy.

Mr Stewart was to be made redundant alongside his colleague, world-renowned mollusc expert Dr Bruce Marshall, as part of a restructure of the museum’s natural history team.

News of the restructure caused a backlash among the science community both in New Zealand, and overseas, when it was revealed last year.

University of Otago palaeogenetics lab director Nic Rawlence said the restructure should have never happened.

“It’s basically a massive backdown and defeat for Te Papa … they’ve finally admitted that the grounds they used to get rid of Andrew Stewart did not stand-up to scrutiny, and they should be congratulated on the fact that they’re finally doing what’s right, but at the same time it should have never actually come to this in the first place,” Dr Rawlence said.

“I personally think that Bruce and Andrew were one of the most productive and well-respected scientists within the organisation.”

Marine expert Dr Steve O’Shea, who is famous for his work with Te Papa’s colossal squid, says Mr Stewart’s job offer was a partial win considering Dr Marshall’s position. “I am of course still concerned that Bruce hasn’t been offered a position, that they are still advertising Bruce’s position and that that new position, applications for that close tomorrow so, we have called for a moratorium on restructuring and staff redundancies and appointments at Te Papa – that moratorium we don’t have yet.”

“So Andrew has secured his position, Bruce [has] not, so it’s a partial win for the small guys.”

Dr O’Shea wanted there to an independent audit of Te Papa, so those behind the restructure can be held to account.

“I think that audit should look at the people behind the proposed redundancies and restructuring, it should look at the policies that have been used that have enabled this restructure to occur because legally Te Papa didn’t have a leg to stand on.”

“[We’re looking for] these people to be identified and for these people to be removed from the positions that they’ve been promoted to that they’re clearly incompetent to do.”

A Te Papa spokesperson said that they would not be commenting further, as the process was confidential and it was “working to find the best possible outcome.”

Previously, Te Papa director of strategy Dean Peterson defended the restructure, saying the museum was making changes to keep up with the fast-changing areas of biodiversity and biosecurity.

“We’re doing that by changing some of the roles on the team. We’re not actually changing the size,” Dr Peterson said. “It is about expertise and it’s also about relevance to the science community and to the government agencies that are dealing with all of this work.

“We really need some new people in there. We need to have a career path for these individuals and that’s why we’re putting together the structure we have.”

Mr Stewart has been approached for comment.