Australia’s chemical watchdog will move to Armidale bringing up to 175 new jobs to the city.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce confirmed the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority would relocate from Canberra, costing taxpayers $25.6 million.
A temporary office will open in Armidale by March and the University of New England is bidding to locate it on campus.
Mr Joyce also said he would release the $272,000 cost-benefit analysis, but played down its importance.
“If they did a cost-benefit analysis when they set up the University of New England it would have failed miserably, not just failed, failed miserably,” he said.
“If you’re talking about chemicals used on animals in regional areas, then it makes sense to have the assessment body in a regional area.
“There are lots of people who work for the APVMA and guess where they got their degrees from - here, the rural science department [at UNE].”
It's not clear how many scientists will relocate to Armidale in the initial move.
But UNE's chancellor James Harris said “it was a match made in heaven”.
“We can provide education services to the people that use the APVMA,” he said.
“We can also provide a great research base for things that they will do in the future.”
The university has developed two new postgraduate courses in regulatory science to be implemented next year.
“There is a shortage of regulatory scientists in Australia and we have developed these courses in collaboration with the regulatory authorities in Australia, including the APVMA,” UNE vice-chancellor Annabelle Duncan said.
Farmers and the federal opposition have criticized Mr Joyce for “blatant pork barrelling”.
They say the Authority will lose highly specialised staff in the move.
The Government has bypassed Parliament with a rarely used regulatory order.
It says public agencies with agricultural policy or regulatory responsibilities must be located in a regional area more than 150 kilometres by road from a capital city.