POLITICS

CEO Of Government Pesticides Body Reportedly Resigns

The decision comes after the department is set to relocate to Armidale.

20/04/2017 8:36 PM AEST | Updated 20/04/2017 9:33 PM AEST
Fairfax

Australian Pesticides And Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) boss Kareena Arthy has reportedly resigned from the government body on Thursday.

Arthy handed in a letter of resignation to the office of Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce after it was announced in October 2016 that the APVMA would be relocated from Canberra to Armidale, in country NSW.

It is understood tensions between the Deputy Prime Minister and the APVMA boss have risen as the realities of the relocation come to light ahead of her resignation.

A spokesperson from the APVMA told The Huffington Post Australia the body would not be commenting on the reports at this stage.

HuffPost Australia contacted Joyce's office on Thursday in relation to the matter although no comment has been made.

It is understood Arthy has been offered another public role in government located in the ACT, which is expected to be confirmed on Friday, according to The Canberra Times.

In March, it was revealed that staff from the government department have been forced to work from a local McDonald's to use the fast food restaurant's free wi-fi, because their new office is not ready yet.

Staff members reportedly opposed the relocation which was to the area in deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's electorate, and in a Senate estimates hearing, Arthy​ admitted there had been "substantial" job losses since the move.

At least 20 of the APVMA's regulatory scientists were among 48 employees to have quit the organisation in recent times after refusing to pack up their lives and relocate almost 750km morth to Armidale.

Armidale does not have any buildings suitable to house the agency, so a new structure was being built. The problem is, the APVMA has already moved to the country town, and without a suitable work place, they've been forced to improvise.

When asked about the matter, Joyce said any claims the APVMA was being faced with a lack of suitable office space "ridiculous".

"This is ridiculous. There are so many areas up there if they wish to have office space, they could get it. Armidale was one of the first cities to get the NBN," he said.

"So the idea that you have to work out of Macca's is a choice that they've made. I've been overwhelmed by people saying it was ridiculous and there was office space if they wanted it."

Despite this, Arthy also admitted in the estimates hearing she expected most of APVMA staff to continue working from home, rather than relocate to Armidale, because the government's order prevents the agency from having an official building in Canberra.

On Wednesday, it was also uncovered that APVMA workers had been handed a long list of "talking points" on April 7 of things to be recited in "BBQ conversations" and other "social settings" in order for them to be able to explain the forced relocation.

"We've published some new talking points for you to use in social settings which will help you discuss our relocation to Armidale with friends and family," APVMA Chief Operating Officer, Stefanie Janiec wrote.

"My friends have asked me many questions about the relocation since the announcement was made last year, and I'm sure this is a similar experience for everyone in our agency.

"These talking points have been crafted to help you with something we all refer to as the BBQ conversation."

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