It has been a year since Canberra’s hailstorm destroyed the Australian National University (ANU)’s food security glasshouses, yet they remain unfixed due to a delayed insurance claim.
ANU has pushed back its critical research to prepare Australia’s crops for harsher weather as its food security glasshouses remain damaged and researchers continue to wait for the insurance payout.
Aside from the 12-month setback on research, the researchers also missed milestones, compromised plans, and risked funding from organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“It is frustrating — several of us did not even want to do an interview because it is so depressing to walk on to this campus and see these empty spaces,” said ANU plant biology professor Barry Pogson, as reported by ABC.
“We used funds from the faculty of science and our school to repair one of them, so some of our projects are ticking over.”
The researchers planned to rebuild the buildings and future-proof the research, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.
“COVID happened, budgets got smashed, and we went back to a plan of getting insurance funds to replace damaged panels, and we have been stuck waiting for insurance funds to be released,” Pogson said.
ANU plant microbiologist Ulrike Mathesius clarified that it would still take a while to fix the damages even after receiving the insurance payout.
“It is frustrating for researchers because we do not know when it’s going to happen. Once it happens, there will still be quite a few months until things can get shipped here and glasshouses can be rebuilt to their old standard,” Mathesius said, as reported by ABC.
“That is just to take us where we were a year ago. The plan was to make this a much more accessible place to the public, and all those hopes have been dashed because of the compounding effect of the COVID crisis.”