First published in NZ Winegrower, August-September 2013 edition.
As we look to the future, there are a number of environmental issues becoming
increasingly apparent in New Zealand and overseas. The first is a focus on the
sustainable use of natural resources, in particular, water. The second is a
health based approach to responding to elements of society that may be abused,
such as alcohol. The third is the pressure for urban growth, namely issues with
expanding residential boundaries.
Australia is often referred to as the "lucky country" due to the many natural
resources which naturally occur there, particularly minerals. While at this
stage New Zealand does not appear to have those mineral deposits, it does have a
much more temperate (and damp) climate, creating a greater incidence of that
other essential resource, water.
The Land and Water Forum was established (with representatives from New
Zealand Winegrowers) to consider the best methods for the use and the management
of water in New Zealand. The Forum is the first collaborative environment where
non-governmental organisations, industry and the Governments have worked
together to consider ways to preserve an essential resource, in this case water.
The final recommendations of the forum are yet to be released.
However, all operative players in that discussion will say that there is some
way to go given that only Auckland ratepayers are used to paying the price for
water usage at a residential level, whereas in the rest of the country water
charges have not yet materialised. This may well be the reason why in the 2012
year water shortages were evident earlier on in other parts of the country. In
Auckland, water pricing had already ensured an element of rational use to the
As we look to the way in which we sustain our future in terms of production
and as a population, we need to consider the extent to which we manage, conserve
and protect that which we already have. Implementing a pricing mechanism allows
the market to control this.
Health Related Issues
In the last 20 years there has been a sea change towards habitual and
recreational matters, which potentially adversely affects public health and the
health spending of governments. The first matter to come to mind is smoking.
This focus has now moved onto other areas such as high salt and sugar foods from
an obesity point of view and to alcohol controls. The increasing control on the
supply and availability of alcohol are demonstrated in the latest Sale and
Supply of Liquor Act 2012. There is a much more strict approach to the liberal
provisions which existed previously. This is particularly evident in relation to
the limits on the promotion of alcohol, the extent to which this is discounted
and the supervision of minors on licensed premises. The prevalence of RTDs and
incidence binge drinking amongst youth led to a step-change approach. In the
future it is likely that more controls will be placed on the consumption of
alcohol, the purchase of alcohol and the extent to which it is able to be
What to do at the Rural / Urban Boundary
Issues of reverse sensitivity are by no means new to the wine industry. They
have arisen for a number of years and the importance of the industry was it
heralded in the now (famous) case of Fraser Shingle Ltd v Hastings District
Council. Issues in winegrowing areas around the country have continued to
arise where the pressure for residential land and countryside living has
encouraged the subdivision of areas that support less profitable agriculture
activities. This has lead to an increase of city dwellers on countryside
Winegrowers will be familiar with issues relating to noise from bird bangers
and now more commonly frost fans, as well as issues of tractor noise during
harvest and other related matters. The importance of the agriculture economy to
New Zealand has often been heralded at these times of global economic recession.
However it is still difficult to conceive a consistent approach in maintaining
and protecting the value of productive land.
In many regions the attraction of countryside living adjacent to peaceful
vineyard environments does not reflect the reality of a working rural productive
environment. The housing affordability encouraged the investigation into
development of further Greenfield land for residential subdivision, but fails to
acknowledge the price this may pay to the productive rural economy.
It is not a question of seeking to protect all rural land without cost; it is
important that the practice of ensuring that high grade soils are present in an
area that is sufficient to farm is maintained. Where such land is fragmented,
aggregation in the future is likely. This is an area in which the industry needs
to ensure that it has a voice. On a personal level, those farmers seeking to
extract some further value out of land by providing for subdivision must ensure
the necessary no complaints covenants are placed on the titles, notifying
potential purchasers that they will be purchasing in a working productive
environment. In addition, both the industry and its related horticultural and
agricultural partners should work with councils to maintain the integrity of the
productive environment in the face of increasing pressure for subdivision. This
may be done by ensuring that subdivision is controlled and occupies areas where
the parcel size is not economic for agricultural purposes or where there is low
There are many issues in the environment on the horizon for the industry from
an environmental perspective but the key ones can be easily summarised as water,
health, and maintaining and providing rural land. These key elements are
necessary in order to truly turn water into wine.
This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.