Pesticides authority boss Kareena Arthy has joined dozens of her public servants and walked away from the agency before its forced removal from Canberra to Armidale.
ACT Public servants were told on Friday morning that Ms Arthy will start working as Deputy Director-General of Enterprise Canberra, the government outfit that promotes investment in the territory, in early June.
Ms Arthy, who is well respected both in agricultural and public service circles, has been at the centre of the storm raging over the forced relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority since it was announced in October 2016.
Her resignation, to join the ACT Public Service, comes just a day after the National Party announced its intention to massively expand its policy of "decentralisation" or shifting public service agencies and their employees out of Canberra and other capital cities and into regional Australia.
Ms Arthy's decision leaves the agency leaderless as it faces an exodus of staff, especially many of its vital regulatory scientists, who are flatly refusing to pack up their lives and move to northern NSW.
The APVMA's move to Armidale, in the heart of Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce's New England electorate, has been the most controversial part of the policy, with accusations flying that Mr Joyce is "pork barrelling" or engineering the move to shore up his electoral fortunes.
Labor's Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, a dogged critic of the Armidale move, said the loss of Ms Arthy was a "tragedy".
"This is a tragedy for the APVMA and further underscores the folly of pork barrelling exercise," the Labor frontbencher said.
"Industry will be distressed to learn of Kareena Arthy's departure, she is highly regarded and respected."
"This will surely force the Prime Minister to intervene and stop this ridiculous exercise."
Mr Joyce's office was contacted for comment.
Ms Arthy has found herself in awkward situations several times as the Armidale policy came under attack from Labor politicians and agricultural industry groups.
Her profile went national in late February when she told a Senate estimates committee that she and her colleagues were working in a MacDonald's restaurant in Armidale, using the burger joint's free wi-fi to do their work, although she later said it had been a throw-away remark.
In early April Ms Arthy refused to tell another Parliamentary committee whether she herself was planning to make the move north, telling the politicians it was a "personal" matter.