Winepress - June 2024

Page 1

Sam, Mandy and Ben Weaver talk about succession at Churton
Charlie McLean I 027 346 1671 BE MARLBOROUGH LTD, BAYLEYS, LICENESED UNDER THE REA ACT 2008 Mike Poff I 027 665 5477 mike poff@bayleys co nz BE MARLBOROUGH LTD, BAYLEYS, LICENESED UNDER THE REA ACT 2008 Fairhall, 113 Booker Road Rapaura, 47 Stump Creek Rapaura, 59 Jeffries Road Hastings, Vineyard portfolio Your specialists in Viticulture, Lifestyle & Rural Sales Renwick, 32 Guernsey Road Hawkesbury , 83 Hawkesbury Road Get in touch if you would like to know more about any of these fantastic properties Offers over $2,400,000 Offers over $2,600,000 Offers over $3,400,000 By Negotiation By Negotiation By Negotiation

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Winepress June 2024 /3 7 22 17 REGULARS FEATURES 5 Editorial - Bev Doole 6 Vantage Point - Jim Mercer 7 Take the LeadLara Campbell 25 Generation Y-ineSanne Poulsen 28 Biosecurity WatchJim Herdman 31 Industry News 34 Wine Happenings COVER: 18 Succession Plan
12 Wellness Winner
take over. In
new series we hear from
Weaver family at Churton.
tough year
Impact Award? 15 Growth Spurt
Nurseries celebrates
opening of a new facility that
a game-changer for biosecurity 20 Cellar Door review Cellar door teams meet to compare notes on the summer season and come up with improvements. In this issue 15
MRC farewell: Gerald Hope Eco-corridor project: Tracy Johnston
Ormond Nurseries: New building unveiled the lead: Lara Campbell

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Grape Grower Directors: Andrew Nation

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Tracy Johnston

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Drew Ellis

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Jamie Marfell

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From the Editor

WATCHING THE vineyard colours change through autumn and into winter is a good reminder that time does not stand still. Grapevines put on age, vineyards get established, and their owners grow older.

Passing on the vineyard to the next generation has long been a tradition in Europe but it’s only just starting to happen in Marlborough’s relatively young wine industry.

Sucession planning can be a fraught time, whether you’re a farmer, a business owner or a winegrower. There’s the potentially volatile combination of finances, family relationships and fairness, not to mention emotional connections to the land and business. Our new series Succession Plan features wine families going through this process, looking at the experience of the parents who’ve always done it their way, and the ambition of the children who are stepping up to take over the reins. Being supportive, being open to change and being financially sustainable are all part of the process, which we start exploring this month with the Weaver family at Churton.

There’s a changing of the guard at the Marlborough Research Centre, with long-time CEO Gerald Hope stepping down this month after more than three decades driving the research organisation’s work to help the region’s primary industries collaborate and thrive. His achievements have been outstanding and appreciated by many.

There’s also been a change at Winepress. As you’ll see from the photo above, I’ve taken over from Sophie Preece as editor. With energy and flair, Sophie has done a fantastic job telling the industry’s stories through the people involved, and thrown light on the issues affecting Marlborough Wine members. I look forward to following in her footsteps.

Winepress June 2024 / 5


Dealing with financial pain

When the financial pressure is on it pays to learn from experience before cutting back on vineyard expenditure, says Jim Mercer, Fruition Horticulture’s Marlborough manager.

THE 2023/24 growing season will be remembered as one of the driest on record. It could also be one of the most financially stressful.

A combination of factors are at play, including including lower yields, some lower pricing and higher costs. However this is not new territory for any growers who went through the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and subsequent years. There are some key lessons from that period that could apply now. Firstly, what happened in the vineyard this year: Sauvignon Blanc fruit quality is generally excellent with minimal disease and early ripening, reported yields are variable but indications are that the average yield will be lower than the 10-year average for 2014-2023.

Poor weather conditions during flowering led to lower berry numbers and more ‘hen and chicken’ within bunches. The very dry season also reduced berry weights in many blocks. After two large harvests in 2022 and 2023 there was a large volume of 2023 wine still to sell as vintage 2024 approached. The smaller 2024 vintage is likely to help re-set the supply-and-demand balance but will put financial pressure on producers who harvested low yields. In addition, indications are that there is some downward pressure on grape prices for the current vintage. Assuming low yields and lower pricing, what can growers do to offset reduced revenue?

The MPI Vineyard Monitoring Reports for 2008-2012 vintages show what happened after over-supply from the 2008 vintage was compounded by the Global Financial Crisis. In the 2008 report the price for Sauvignon Blanc had peaked at $2,435 per tonne and this progressively fell away to a low of $1,190 in 2011. Many wineries introduced yield caps to rebalance supply and demand.

Vineyard working expenses in 2008 were $10,700 per hectare; this dropped to a low of $7,650 in 2012. Vineyard working expenses have increased annually to a high of $15,955 per hectare in the 2023 Vineyard Monitoring Report. When compiling the MPI Vineyard Monitoring Report 2009 -2012 many wineries were limiting contracted yields and therefore growers became very focused on reducing expenditure. The key items targeted were:

• Reducing or stopping fertiliser applications

• Reducing cane numbers, typically from 4 to 3 to reduce pruning costs

• Increasing mechanisation – machine stripping and pretopping

• Labour rate negotiation with contractors

• Reducing crop protection applications

• Deferring repairs and maintenance

• Owner-operators doing more work themselves

• Ceasing investment on new vineyards or redevelopment

• Reducing principal repayments or moving to interestonly loans

• Making own wine, often sold as bulk wine What can we learn from the 2009-2012 period of low returns?

Everybody’s situation is different but reducing crop protection inputs should only be considered with great caution as it can easily backfire with increased pest and disease issues. We would encourage growers to discuss chemical product options with their advisors.

Reducing or cancelling fertiliser inputs may be ok for a season if soil testing and leaf analysis suggests reasonable levels, but growers did experience a reduction in yield when non-application continued for longer periods.

Cane numbers laid down may depend on contracted yield levels, but long-spur pruning is an option that has been shown to reduce pruning costs. (A Bragato Research Institute trial of this technique will be presented at Grape Days on June 24.)

Employing more mechanisation where possible will help, and may involve investing in more time-efficient machinery such as three-row sprayers. Shopping around for competitive contractor rates is a must, but also consider the quality of work and timely supply of services. Another option is for owner-operators to do more work themselves.

Discussing debt repayment options with your bank and deferring non-essential capital investment and maintenance can all help with cash flow.

The Vineyard Monitoring Report for the 2024 vintage is due in October and will provide clarity on income and expenses.

Fruition Horticulture is contracted to collect and collate the data for the Vineyard Monitoring Programme and Report funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and New Zealand Wine Growers (NZW).

6 / Winepress June 2024
Jim Mercer

TAKE THE LEAD Be there for your team


Campbell, Clos Henri’s Sales Manager and Assistant Winemaker, is on the Workforce Steering Group & Wellness and Resiliency Working Group

and shares her thoughts on how good leadership grows a better industry.

What does good leadership look like?

To me, the most important aspect is to always be there for your team. As a leader, you should act as the team’s staunchest supporter, mentor them, and clearly communicate your expectations while providing them with the tools they need to succeed. No one can be a perfect leader, but if you take an interest in what motivates and drives your team, and what they need to thrive, you’ll be on the right track.

My managers Fabiano Frangi and Damien Yvon are fantastic role models. Though their management styles are very different, they are both committed to mentoring me, developing my skills and knowledge, and advocating for me at every turn. They trust my abilities and ambition while also providing hands-on assistance and training when needed.

What are key leadership challenges and opportunities?

Our greatest challenge is how to build a resilient workforce that can adapt to the rapidly changing nature of the industry, amid the shifting sands of immigration and seasonality. It’s certainly become harder in the past five years to attract and retain skilled employees, ensuring that seasonal labour needs are met and also keeping workplace cultures positive and inclusive.

Industry leaders should take the opportunity postharvest to focus on their wellbeing and prioritise staff training and upskilling. We’ve all got very full plates but the opportunity here is to delegate to our team members, trust in their abilities, and share the load while offering an opportunity for individuals to take on more responsibility. What do you want to see from the Working Group? We have reached a significant milestone as a group. Over the past 18 months we’ve actively engaged with the Marlborough industry, MBIE and NZ Winegrowers, and conducted a Skills Shortage Survey to identify the workforce situation in Marlborough and the wider industry. We’re now working towards a clear understanding of the constraints to our workforce.

It would be amazing to develop a roadmap to build a skilled and resilient workforce to meet our future needs. We’re also working with NZ Winegrowers to improve career pathway development. My goal is to minimise the gap between what people expect from their role in the wine industry and what it actually entails, as well as provide clear career development options. This will help us attract the right candidates with the right capabilities.

Table 1:

Weather Data – May 2024

Growing Degree Days Total

July 23 to May 24-Max/Min1

July 23 to May 24 -

1GDD’s Max/Min are calculated from absolute daily maximum and minimum temperatures 2GDD’s Mean are calculated from average hourly temperatures

3GDD LTA = 1996-2023

Table 2: Weekly temperatures, rainfall, sunshine and wind-run during May 2024


May’s mean temperature of 9.4°C was -1.9°C below the LTA (11.3°C). It is 4th coldest May in the past 39 years. Each of the four weeks of May (Table 2) recorded below average daily temperatures (-0.3°C, -3.3°C, -0.8°C and -2.6°C) due to below average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for the entire month. The absolute daily maximum was 19.8°C on 1 and 8 May, 1.9°C below the month’s LTA maximum (21.7°C). The absolute daily minimum was -1.8°C on 10 May, 1.7°C below the LTA (-0.1°C).

In contrast, May 2023 started off warm, with 4.9°C above the LTA, and the second, third and fourth weeks of the month were closer to the LTA and is 4th warmest for this same number of years.

Mean Soil Temperatures

• 10 cm depth – 7°C (-1.8°C from LTA); 4th coldest (1986-2024)

• 20 cm depth – 8.4°C; (-1.8°C from LTA); 4th coldest (1986-2024)

• 30 cm depth – 9.9°C; (-1.4°C from LTA); 6th coldest (1986-2024)

• 100 cm depth – 13.9°C; (-0.3°C from LTA); 13th coldest (1986-2024)

Unsurprisingly with the very cold average daily temperatures the soil temperatures dropped to being some of the coldest. This contrasts with May 2023 that had warm air temperatures, 1

8 / Winepress June 2024 GROW
May 2024 May 2024 compared with LTA May LTA (1986-2023) May 2023 GDD’s for: Month - Max/Min1 Month – Mean2 17.5 37.4 28% 50% 61.73 74.63 87.5 98.5
Mean2 1369.1 1441.0 97% 99% 1417.43 1460.83 1546.3 1576.3 Maximum (°C) Mean Mean Minimum (°C) Mean Temp (°C) 15.3 3.5 9.4 -1.3°C -2.4°C -1.9°C 16.6 5.9 11.3 17.4 7.9 12.7 Ground Frosts (<= -1.0°C) 11 5.7 more 5.3 1 Air Frosts (<0.0°C) 4 2.8 more 1.2 0 Sunshine hours 204 116% 175.4 139.0 Sunshine hours – lowest 114.7 - (1969) Sunshine hours – highest 214.1 - (2015) Sunshine hours total – 2024 1264.2 116% 1091.3 951.0 Rainfall (mm) 23.4 39% 59.7 82.4 Rainfall (mm) – lowest 4.0 - (2008) Rainfall (mm) – highest 182.6 - (1948) Rainfall total (mm) – 2024 139.8 58% 239.0 274.4 Evapotranspiration – mm 43.6 97% 45.6 38.7 Avg. Daily Windrun (km) 175.3 82% 213.9 168.3 9am mean soil temp – 10cm 7.0 -1.8°C 8.8 10.5 9am mean soil temp – 30cm 9.9 -1.4°C 11.3 12.7
Mean °C Mean Max °C Mean Min °C Rainfall (mm) Sunshine (hours) Wind-run (km) 1-7 May 10.9 (-0.3) 16.8 (0.2) 5.1 (-0.9) 19.6 57.4 190.4 8-14 May 8.0 (-3.3) 14.5 (-2.1) 1.5 (-4.4) 0 60.6 171.7 15-21 May 10.4 (-0.8) 16.0 (-0.6) 4.9 (-1.0) 3.8 38.8 159.0 22-28 May 8.7 (-2.6) 13.8 (-2.8) 3.6 (-2.3) 0 33 169.3 29-31 May (3 days) 8.2 (-3.1) 15.8 (-0.8) 0.5 (-5.4) 0 14.2 200 1-30 May 2024 9.4 (-1.9) 15.3 (-1.3) 3.5 (-2.4) 23.4 (39.2%) 204 (116.3%) 175.3 (82%) Long-term Average 1986-2023 11.3°C 16.6°C 5.9°C 59.7 mm 175.4 hours 213.9 km

ground frost and no air frosts so the soil temperatures were also very warm. The 30 cm soil temperature is sometimes used as a ‘grower’s guide’ regarding planting crops. The 30 cm soil temperatures in May 2022 and 2023, were both 12.7°C and were the warmest on record over the 39 years (1986 to 2024).


May 2024 recorded 11 ground frosts and 4 air frosts. The coldest ground frost of -4.4°C was recorded on the morning of 10 May along with the coldest air minimum temperature of -1.8°C. May 2012 was the last time 11 ground frosts were recorded. May 1992 (thanks to the influence of Mt. Pinatubo) recorded 14 ground frosts.

May 2018 had 2 air frosts; this was the last time that any air frosts were recorded for the month. May 2023 only had 1 ground frost and no air frosts.


May 2024 recorded below average daily wind-run of 175.3 km, well below the LTA of 213.9 km (1986-2022). There were only 5 days in May when the daily wind-run was higher than the May LTA.


204 hours of sunshine were recorded for May (Table 1), which was 116% of the LTA of 175.4 hours. The average daily sunshine was 6.6 hours compared with the LTA of 5.7 hours / day; 20 days in May recorded more than this LTA, with an average of 8.9 hours / day. May 2024 was 5th highest total sunshine hours recorded (1986-2024), the lowest was in 2010 with 119.2 hours.

From January to May Blenheim recorded 1264.5 hours sunshine. This is the second consecutive month, since the beginning of January 2024, that Blenheim recorded the most sunshine hours compared with other locations. Richmond was in second place with 1251.3 hours and Whakatane in third place with 1220.2 hours.


May’s rainfall total of 23.4 mm was 39% of May’s LTA (59.7 mm). The main rain event was on 1 May which recorded 19.6 mm. The two other significant rain events were on 15 and 20 May that had 1.6 mm and 2.0 mm respectively. Total rainfall for the five months January to May 2024 was 139.8 mm; this is 58% of the LTA of 239 mm. This is 5th driest January to May. More recently January to May 2020 was exceptionally dry; January to April had 44.2 mm but then recovered slightly in May which got 81.6 mm of rain.

Looking at the number of days that recorded more than 1 mm of rain from January to May (Table 3) 2024 was just 50% of the LTA (26 days) and had the lowest number of days recorded over the last 39 years. 7 out of the last 10 years recorded less than the LTA’s 26 days.

Soil Moisture

Shallow soil moisture (5-35 cm depth) was 35.6% on 1 May due to 19.6 mm rain. By 31 May it declined to 29.5%, 2.2%

Table 3: Total number of rain days (days with 1.0 mm rain or greater) in Blenheim, January to May

below the LTA (31.7%). This is 3rd lowest soil moisture value for 31 May (2003-2024). As the daily wind-run was low (it only exceeded the LTA of 212.7 km / day on 5 days) and the ET rates (1.4 mm / day) remained close to average these helped to maintain the soil moisture levels. However, without more rain over the winter months the soil moisture will continue to decline and will not be recharging the aquifers.

Marlborough is currently experiencing a ‘Green Drought.’ The rain in April and early May enabled the grass to recover its green colour, however, the low rainfall since June 2023 has not contributed to the recharging of the main aquifers under the Wairau Plains nor the rise in river flows. To date there has been 327.4 mm of rain from June 2023 to May 2024 (51% of the LTA – 1986-2023). This is the lowest 12-month rain total (June to May). The wettest 12 months was between June 1994 and May 1995, 1083.6 mm.

NIWA’s website has Fire Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) maps and indices FW: National Indices ( Although the summer’s fire restrictions have been lifted in Marlborough the figures show that there are still “extreme” underlying drought conditions in most areas south of the Wairau River. Rain may have made the grass green again but it has not been sufficient to increase the moisture content to normal levels for soil, root systems and larger dead logs, which are still potential combustible sources. In some areas there is also a lot of dead grass left over from the summer, standing above new grass growth.

This means that the green condition of lighter fuels (like new grass growth) may make it difficult to start a fire. If a fire does get into dead grass or into heavier fuels and scrub, the fire could burn intensely and be difficult and costly to extinguish. Therefore, anybody wanting to burn off piles of vegetation needs to consider very carefully the amount of long, dry grass near the pile, any large material in it and near it, the slope of the land, wind conditions, large trees nearby and ensure that a good source of water is available should a fire get out of hand.

Winepress June 2024 / 9 EDUCATE
Year Number of Days 2024 13 2023 35 2022 19 2021 22 2020 17 2019 25 2018 38 LTA (1986-2023) 26

Autumn 2024 summary

Table 4: Autumn (March to May) summaries for sunshine, rainfall, temperature and ground frosts in Blenheim

Autumn Sunshine

Autumn 2024 recorded 660.1 hours sunshine; 110% of the LTA. This is 3rd highest autumn sunshine total, 1994 recorded the highest autumn hours.

March to May 2023 recorded 545.4 hours sunshine, 91% of the LTA. This is the lowest Autumn sunshine total since 2006, which recorded 543.6 hours.

Autumn Rainfall

Autumn 2024 recorded 120.6 mm rain, 81% of the LTA. This is usually the time of the year that breaks the summer drought but this has not been the case this year. December 2023 to February 2024 had 33.4 mm of rain.

March to May 2023 recorded 173.8 mm rain, 117% of the LTA; Autumn 2022 recorded 74.4 mm rain.

Autumn Mean Temperature

March 2024 = 14.9°C (-1.2°C); April 2024 = 13.3°C (-0.3°C); May 2024 = 9.4°C (-1.9°C). Autumn 2024 = 12.5°C (-1.1°C of LTA) and is 4th coldest autumn (1986-2024).

Autumn 2023 mean = 14.51°C (0.9°C LTA) and is 6th warmest autumn for the 39 years.

Autumn Frosts

Autumn 2024 recorded only 12 ground frost and 4 air frosts. In contrast Autumn 2023 recorded just 1 ground frost, and no air frosts.

Victoria Raw - Plant & Food Research Funded by the Marlborough Research Centre

10 / Winepress June 2024
Year Sunshine hours Rain (mm) Temperature (°C) Ground Frosts Autumn 2024 660.1 120.6 12.5 12 Autumn 2023 545.4 173.8 14.51 1 Autumn 2022 661.9 74.4 14.50 2 Autumn 2021 582.1 175.2 14.0 9 Autumn 2020 654.9 117.0 13.4 8 Highest 695.8 – 1994 259.0 - 1987 14.7 - 1999 20 - 1992 Lowest 516.9 - 1995 59.4 - 2001 11.0 - 1992 0 - 2007 Autumn LTA (1986-2023) 598.6 149.4 13.6 6.5

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Caring and sharing

Hunter’s Wines and Forrest led the way in this year’s Wellness Week awards

LEARNING TO breathe like a US Navy Seal, sessions on how to manage personal finances, and a 3pm finish on Fridays were among the innovative activities featured in this year’s Marlborough Wine Industry Wellness Week.

Held via instagram at the end of May, the week aims to showcase and share initiatives that support staff and encourage a culture of wellbeing in the workplace.

Hunter’s Wines won the Most Impactful Initiative Award for the way they integrated the 5 Ways of Wellbeing - Take Notice, Give, Be Active, Connect, and Keep Learning - during Mental Health week in September. Activities included a breathing exercise to reduce stress, donating pet food to Marlborough Four Paws, learning stretches to do while at work, a competition to match staff members to their baby photos, and taking part in a quiz night to strain the brain and raise funds for a good cause. Friday afternoon Wine Options are continuing to bring everyone together at the end of week. “We don’t have a big budget but small things can mean a lot,” says Karen Mckeown, who manages administration, health and safety and wellbeing at Hunter’s. “It’s important to come up with activities relevant to people and it’s got to be fun. It also shows that people at work care about you.” Forrest won the Leadership Award for two initiatives to boost physical health, foster team spirit and provide a balanced and fun work environment. All staff finish at 3pm on Fridays to have some extra time for selfcare, and a personal trainer comes in for the Never Miss

Giving back to the community (above) and a Monday boot camp were two of the winning wellness ideas

a Monday boot camps - an energising workout to start the week. The award judges say these were all great wellness examples that could be easily replicated. With 24 entries this year (compared to 14 in 2023) it looks like the message is getting out. Judges also awarded three honourable mentions: Wither Hills for providing a relaxing chill-out room during harvest that’s now available all year; Yealands for the lunch-and-learn sessions on finances including budgeting, home ownership and Kiwisaver; and NZ Wineries for their enthusiastic instagram engagement during Wellness Week. Wellness Week is a collaboration with Farmstrong, a nationwide wellbeing programme for the rural community.

12 / Winepress June 2024 EDUCATE

Secret to success

One year on, Spy Valley is still going strong with team wellbeing activities

FOOD AND togetherness are the key ingredients in Spy Valley’s ever-evolving programme of wellness activities. Winners of the 2023 Marlborough Wine Industry Workplace Wellbeing Impact Award, the team at Spy Valley have kept up the momentum over the past 12 months.

Spring Pizza Lunch, Monthly Morning Tea, Fish and Chip Fridays, Coffee from around the World and an end-ofharvest Mexican feast have all been on the menu.

“Food is a good way to show you care for people and appreciate what they do,” says Spy Valley managing director Amanda Johnson. “Times have been tough for a lot of people over the past year. We don’t know what’s going on in personal lives so it’s good to get support from colleagues in the work place. And let’s face it, we spend a lot of time at work.”

Spy Valley has a team of 30, including vineyard, winery, and office staff, and Amanda encourages crossfunctionality. “If someone on the bottling line is sick, the finance manager will go and help out. During harvest we shut down the bottling line and they go and work in the vineyard and winery. “It helps everyone understand different parts of the company and builds respect and appreciation for what everyone does. Feeling valued is a big part of workplace wellbeing.

“We’re not a company that writes a wellness policy and then shoves it into a drawer. It’s embedded in what we do. Our collaboration, respect and shared purpose feeds into

Designing a new Spy Structure became a fun activity for staff using materials from the decommissioned spy base

better communication, good productivity and a healthy fun environment. It’s good for the team and good for the business.”

Staff are always on the lookout for new activities. One idea that came in from left-field was the chance to design a “Spy Structure” that now stands proudly outside the Cellar Door. The materials came from the decommissioned spy base that features in their brand. “Robinson Construction arranged for a couple of our guys to go through the security checks to get on site and pick the bits they wanted, including a radar dish,” says Amanda. The rest of the staff had input into the design and the structure became a fun project.

The 2023 Wellness Award is on display in Spy Valley’s cellar door. “We get a lot of comments about it and it begins conversations about life at Spy,” says Amanda. “It not only builds reputation publicly but also reminds staff of the healthy and caring environment that they work in every day.” For companies not sure about having a wellness strategy, Amanda recommends preparing and sharing food as a good place to start. “Taco Tuesday, banana cake morning tea, pizza lunch... pretty much anywhere there’s food, I know the staff will turn up,” she says.


Secure path to growth

Biosecurity is a key driver for Ormond Nurseries’ new development

WHEN BEN Wickham was being wooed by Marlborough winegrowers 30 years ago to set up a new nursery to propagate grapevines, he didn’t spend any time on soil maps or chemical analyses.

He dug one hole, drank a glass of water from the tap, and immediately agreed to buy a block of land at 148 Rowley Cresent, Grovetown. Ben’s instincts must have been good because last month his company, Ormond Nurseries, expanded into a 30 ha property with a new 3000 sq m processing facility just down the road at 13 Rowley Cres.

It is a milestone for the family whose horticultural and business expertise has under-pinned the growth of the wine industry in Marlborough and New Zealand. And the work of Ben and his wife Frances is being continued by their son Marcus (general manager) and daughter Susie (chief financial officer).

Ormond now has the capacity to produce up to two million vines a year in its field blocks and processing facility. But as Ormond general manager Marcus Wickham explained at the opening celebration in May, a big driver for the new building was the need to manage biosecurity risks.

“Following on from the PSA outbreak in kiwifruit, the Ministry for Primary Industries identified nurseries as a biosecurity risk – they’re a very efficient way of transporting new and unwanted pests around NZ,” Marcus says.

“We realised we needed to make big changes to meet biosecurity obligations. Think of Covid for grapevines. How would we manage its spread?”

Ormond’s old location had multiple issues, including the main thoroughfare for customers, deliveries, couriers

and staff going right through the production area. “This is a big no-no for biosecurity,” says Marcus.

It became clear that a new purpose-built space would not only address the biosecurity obligations but also improve production efficiency and staff safety.

“Grapevine propagation is a labour-intensive business. There are people everywhere mixing with hot wax and forklifts, tractors and vehicles. This site solves many staff safety issues as we effectively have forklift-free zones, that’s something we could not have imagined in our old site.”

Budwood cuttings grafted in the new facility are grown outside in field blocks for a year before being lifted, graded, processed and freighted out to customers. It is a linear operation with full control of supplies, people and vehicles. “It gives us an unbroken quarantine for vines from the day they are grafted until going to customers.”

Looking to the future, Marcus expects more automation to improve processes. “Any piece of equipment we try out needs plenty of power supply, compressed air, water and space. All of which we now have. In many ways this site removes those invisible anchor chains that have been holding us back.”

PHOTO: LISA DUNCAN Frances and Ben Wickham open the new Ormond building


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16 / Winepress June 2024 EDUCATE
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Joined-up thinking

A landscape-scale project aims to create ecological corridors along the Wairau Plain

A GAME-changing approach to restoring native biodiversity is on the cards for Wairau River flats in Marlborough. Wendy Sullivan, NZ Landcare Trust co-ordinator, has watched many people plant native seedlings on their land. This could be a lonely task, she noticed, and plantings often ended at property boundaries. It would be better if people worked together towards landscape-scale restoration, Wendy realised. Every riparian margin, hedgerow and unproductive corner could be joined to become arteries for biodiversity, linking landscapes.

“Someone might plant half a hectare which, while important, has reduced significance if isolated,” says Wendy. “But if neighbours get planting, there could be connected ecological corridors for plants, insects, lizards and birds between the river and conservation estate at the head of the valley. “Follow-up work would be essential because planted corridors can support predators and weeds as much as native wildlife.”

A good example is a catchment group in the Avon Valley where planting riparian margins was connecting five farms, one with a vineyard. Trapping and weed control had also started. Communities would be strengthened by connections between like-minded people, pooling of skills, creation of attractive landscapes and carbon absorption, says Wendy. At Climate Action Marlborough’s May 2023 Bootcamp, she tested the idea of an Ecological Corridor Project. The audience’s positive response led to a scoping workshop in October last year, attended by about 50 people.

“I felt I was given the go-ahead to take the idea to a whole new level involving not only landowners”.

For six months, a working group of 12 volunteers has been working on nuts-and-bolts visions and goals. Feedback was loud and clear that the first priority is to map what is currently in the project area, from native plantings to ecological deserts. This required researching restoration projects, including several supported by the Marlborough District Council. Tui to Town promoted protecting and planting of stepping stones of habitat for native birds, from

2008 to 2020. Council’s Working for Nature/Mahi mō te Taiao grants continue to support natural habitat restoration and protection.

Wendy says the Wairau catchment has been prioritised for ecological corridors because it has lost the most biodiversity. Eco-index, a web-mapping and planning tool, reveals that on the Wairau Plain only 5% of pre-human ecosystem cover remains. Upstream of the Waihopai River confluence, 5-10% remains and restoration was also needed. “The game changes if we can meet 15% vegetation coverage,” says Wendy.

Wine Marlborough deputy chair Tracy Johnston is on the Ecological Corridors Project working group. “I have a wetland development project on my own vineyard and know how hard it is to have all the knowledge, momentum and energy required. But when you get together with likeminded people it’s easier to focus on creating habitats and boosting biodiversity,” Tracy says.

Contact for updates on the Wairau Catchment Ecological Corridor Project, to suggest restoration opportunities or to offer help

Diverse landscapes study

Creating more diversity in the landscape was a key finding in a 2023 study, Shared Vision for Land Use in Marlborough, funded by Our Land and Water National Science Challenge. Study project leader Michelle Barry, who was based at the Bragato Research Institute, says projects like the Ecological Corridors are exactly what the community is looking for.

“People want more biodiversity integrated into our farming systems. The landscape scale approach is more effective than ad hoc plantings but for the project to have longevity it’s essential to develop partnerships with industry and wine companies across the region,”

Winepress June 2024 / 17 PROTECT
Tracy Johnston is matching 4ha of grapes with 4ha of restored wetland on their Wairau Valley property


Handing the reins to the next generation

Passing the family vineyard on to your children is a strong tradition in Europe, and now it’s happening in Marlborough. KAT PICKFORD talks to the Weavers at Churton.

WHEN MANDY and Sam Weaver planted their first vineyard on the hill above their home in the Waihopai Valley in 2000, their two young sons were barely old enough to lend a hand.

Since then, the founders of the organic and biodynamic wine label Churton have built a reputation for challenging conventional viticultural practices and producing high quality “soulful” wines that express the unique character of the vineyard. Adopting the European approach of close planting on hillsides with minimal irrigation has led to their distinctive wine style that will only improve as the vineyard continues to mature, Sam says.

“The last two to three years have been amazing,” he says. “The vineyard has really settled, almost as if it’s gone through adolescence and now it’s out the other side. We’ve seen really good consistency since 2019.” Seeing the vineyard and business continue to flourish after more than two decades, is a bittersweet reward for the pair, as they prepare to transition into the next phase of their lives, while sons, Ben (36) and Jack (33) take over the reins.

“We’ve always been so convinced about the special character of this place,” Mandy says. “We’re so proud of what we’ve achieved over the past 25 years, but wholeheartedly look forward to seeing the evolution of Churton in Ben and Jack’s hands.” The road towards succession has not been straightforward.

“Handing over the reins of a family business is not an easy process,” she says. “You’ve got the next generation who want to take over the business, and while they might be committed, they’ve also got to be prepared to take on the financial commitments because we’re not in a position to hand over the property freehold.”

Mandy has stepped back from Churton and is working full-time work in Blenheim to subsidise their income, while Ben is taking on more responsibility working alongside Sam

on the day-to-day operations. The biggest challenge for Sam has been overcoming the emotional connection with their dream as they gradually step back from the business.

“For me, the emotional attachment to the vineyard and the work and everything we’ve developed over the years, is strong,” says Sam. “It’s hard to step away from it, and I probably won’t ever completely let go.” Having the opportunity to work closely with Ben every day has given him confidence in the future of the business.

“We still discuss every decision, and while we may not always agree, we’ve learned how to overcome our differences and get on with things,” says Sam. Ben brings a whole new perspective to the business. He’s enthusiastic,

“It’s hard to step away from the emotional attachment to the vineyard, and I probably won’t ever completely let go.”
Sam Weaver

motivated, and can see so many opportunities. “We’re excited to see where he will take Churton in the future.”

With many happy childhood memories centred around the property his parents developed, Ben has always had a strong desire to raise his children in the home he grew up in. Now with his parents looking towards retirement, Ben is figuring out how to fit the wine business into his own life, with his partner and their four young daughters.

18 / Winepress June 2024
PHOTO: JIM TANNOCK Ben, Sam and Mandy Weaver. ‘We’ve always been convinced about the special character of this place but the road towards succession has not been straight-forward’

“The dream has always been there, I’ve always wanted to buy Mum and Dad’s house and the property,” Ben says. “But the conversation didn’t take place in earnest until I came home in 2019.” While vineyard work provided a handy source of pocket money for him and his friends as teenagers, Ben never intended to work in the industry, choosing instead to leave Blenheim after school to study marketing and chemistry at Victoria University in Wellington. After six years studying and working in the capital city, he returned home to help out with the family business, which opened his eyes to the potential within the industry. In between working at Churton, he completed vintages in California and the Rhone Valley, before picking up a full-time job as winery manager with Mt Beautiful Wines, which led to a production winemaker role. In 2019 he returned home with a clear vision for Churton.

His younger brother Jack was also based in Blenheim at the time and the pair hatched a five-year plan that would see them take the helm of the family business together. That plan started with establishing Natural State - a new entity and wine label producing low-intervention, natural wines aimed at a new generation of wine drinkers, Ben says.

“When Mum and Dad first started Churton they were producing fine wines for high-end restaurants and wine aficionados, which has been very successful,” he says. “Jack and I could see an opportunity to produce fresh, approachable wines to sit alongside the traditional offering

“Jack and I could see an opportunity to produce fresh, approachable wines to sit alongside the traditional Churton offering.” Ben Weaver

while using Natural State as the vehicle to start building profitability and take over the vineyard.” But Covid hit, disrupting their product launch and condensing their fiveyear plan into three.

Jack moved to Argentina with his wife and children and works as a software designer. While Jack keeps in close contact with Churton, Ben is continuing with the succession plan and is currently working with a couple of business mentors to put together a proposal to attract third-party investment. “The idea is to maintain the high standards that Mum and Dad have built a solid reputation on, while modernising certain elements of production and marketing to grow in volume, expand our markets and increase profitability,” says Ben. “Preferably potential investors would have experience in the wine industry, or at least an enthusiasm for it, someone who understands the business side and can see the potential for growth.”

While it’s a “daunting” prospect, Ben is energised and excited about the future of Churton. “Just like Mum and Dad, I can see the special character of the vineyard and the tremendous opportunities to continue to evolve the land and the brand.”

Winepress June 2024 / 19
PHOTO: KEVIN JUDD Mandy tends to the newly planted vineyard in 2000. Ben, Jack and Rufus the dog. Happy childhood memories played a big part in bringing Ben back to the property

Look back to move forward

Cellar door teams meet to review the season and suggest improvements for the next summer

THERE WAS no resting on their laurels for the Marlborough cellar door staff and tour operators who gathered after a successful summer to compare notes and look at ways to improve for next season.

Hosted by the Wine Tourism Steering Group, the endof-season debrief in May was a chance to share cellar door experiences and challenges and come up with suggestions. It was universally agreed that the star of the show this summer was the hot, settled weather and the opportunity to make good use of outdoor space. This was particularly appreciated on cruise ship days, when numbers at the cellar door could be over-whelming. There was concern that independent travellers who either didn’t book for a tasting or found there was no room left were being impacted, especially on cruise days. Often these are travellers who have specific wineries they want to visit and are likely to buy at the cellar door.

Cellar door staff shared some strategies for coping with large numbers. “Having a tasting flight works well for some people who enjoy it at their own pace and might go for a wander in the garden, rather than have a fully guided tasting,” says Nanette Kirk, customer experience manager at Whitehaven.

Steve Hill, co-owner of Wine Tours by Bike, says visitors who are short on time or don’t want to have a full lunch enjoy the option of tasting platters on the counter. “This offers a different experience and helps ease capacity issues.” Greater use of booking systems is another tool to manage numbers and allows cellar doors to know in advance what the visitor flow would be. Building on this, tour operators suggest a standardised computer system that would collate the bookings from each cellar door, show where any gaps were, and allow updates from operators such as a change in numbers, dietary requirements and delays. Destination Marlborough’s acting general manager Tracey Green says that overall it was a very good season for wine tourism, despite a dip in domestic tourist numbers as people felt the impact of the cost of living.

Platters and tasting flights helped ease pressure.

“The steering group wants to get into some gritty work over the winter to propel the region,” Tracey Green

“There was a huge increase in international visitors. From a tourism point of view you were hammered with a lot of people. How you handle it is how they will leave the region feeling. We need to collectively work together to provide good lasting memories,” Tracey said.

The Wine Tourism Steering Group is made up of representatives from cellar doors, tour companies, Destination Marlborough and Wine Marlborough. The end-of-season debrief concluded with prioritising three projects for next summer: providing more food options such as food trucks, developing an umbrella booking system that connects with all cellar doors, and ensuring independent travellers are looked after.

“The steering group wants to get into some gritty work over the winter to propel the region, and working collectively is the way to go,” says Tracey.

Code of Conduct

The Wine Tourism Steering Group is finalising a Code of Conduct that sets out five principles for cellar doors and tour companies. The code is voluntary and encourages members to:

• Work in partnership as Marlborough ambassadors

• Respect winery hosts and the time taken to share their story

• Provide accurate and timely communication about booking details

• Respect boundaries around commercial information and health and safety

• Take collective responsibility to ensure safe alcohol consumption

20 / Winepress June 2024 CELEBRATE

New concept for old Clubs

A WINE and Food Visitor Experience in the former Clubs of Marlborough building could help ease the seasonal pressure on cellar doors and provide a one-stop shop for Marlborough wine tourists on a tight timeline.

Alfred Taylor Development, the new owners of the Clubs building, are working on a concept to transform the first floor into a wine and food centre with tasting areas, cafe and restaurant all showcasing Marlborough producers. Managing director Nic Smith says getting the full support of local wine and food industries would be a key element.

“The Wine and Food Centre would look to add to what current cellar doors are offering,” says Nic. “It would be targeted more at the happy hour and evening dining, providing wine tasting opportunities after the cellar doors closed for the day. “This concept is about involving all wineries, big and small, and filling a need for smaller boutique wineries who don’t have their own cellar doors or are off the beaten track.”

Olivia Doonan, general manager for Tūpari Wines and a member of the wine tourism steering group, is excited by the concept and keen to find out more. “We have a cellar door in Seddon, it’s small and we don’t have a big budget,

but a wine and food centre could be an opportunity for South Marlborough wineries to get together collectively,” says Olivia.

“Blenheim needs a centralised place that people stopping off for just an hour can go to and get a feel for Marlborough wine. Or people with more time can find out more.”

Nic says the next step is to develop the business model and find a company or collective to drive the project. “As much as we want to see this concept happen, at the end of the day we’ll need the buy-in of industry, investors and the community to proceed.”

Alfred Taylor Development are hosting a networking event on June 26 to share more information and get feedback on the concept. Contact

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Changing of the guard

Marlborough Research Centre farewells long-time CEO Gerald Hope and welcomes his successor John Patterson

WHEN MRC chief executive Gerald Hope officially opened the new Ormond Nurseries building in Grovetown last month, it took him full circle back to the early days of his work to support the region’s primary industries.

In 1992 Gerald was tasked by the newly established Marlborough Winegrowers Research Committee to find a commercial nursery operator to set up in the region. He cold-called Ben Wickham at Ormond Nursery in Gisborne and soon had a meeting set up. Land was found at Grovetown Research Block and work began to replace the region’s phylloxera-infected vines.

This ability to see opportunities, connect people, track down research funding and drive growth for Marlborough is the key to Gerald’s success with MRC. In his 34 years at the helm MRC has expanded from the Grovetown Park campus to the Budge Street site including offices, laboratories, a new Experimental Future Vineyard and the New Zealand Wine Centre Te Pokapū Wāina o Aotearoa, a collaborative hub for education, research and innovation.

Gerald’s legacy is described by people who’ve worked with him over the past three decades:

Bernie Rowe, Chair of the MRC Trust: Gerald has played his part in promoting and supporting research and development to benefit primary producers and the wider economy. He always reminds us that Marlborough District Council funding has anchored much of the work of the Trust. Gerald is a person we hold in such high regard that we confidently gave him the freedom to work in ways that have benefited the Research Centre and the Trust.

Dr Mike Trought, Retired Principal Scientist at Plant & Food Research: Gerald managed the Trust assets, which provided limited but extremely valuable seed funding for a variety of research, including the Sauvignon Blanc programmes. His ability to demonstrate to government funders the value the industry puts on the research played a significant part in the success of the funding applications. The Budge Street campus required a rapid development of concept to funding application. The New Zealand Wine Centre is also the result of funding becoming available, applications being submitted, and work undertaken

John Patterson, left, and Gerald Hope have worked together on MRC projects promptly. Much of these projects’ success can be attributed to Gerald.

Paul Millen, Project Manager NZ Dryland Forests Innovation: Gerald was an early and enthusiastic supporter of our research programme to grow durable hardwood for vineyard posts. MRC provided seed funding and took a leadership role in establishing the NZDFI and continues to administer our research projects. We now have forests being planted in durable eucalypts, thanks to Gerald’s support. He’s a great communicator, always available to meet VIPS to explain what MRC is doing and promoting the work and capability of the centre.

Dr Murray Broom, CEO of DNAiTECH: DNAiTECH started in our home garage but to secure grants we really needed a proper laboratory environment. I met with Gerald about finding lab space on MRC’s Grovetown campus. Gerald was incredibly generous, we had rent-free for a period which was just the boost we needed. We are very grateful for Gerald’s belief in the potential of our company and I’m sure we’re not the only ones who feel this way.

Jo Grigg, Chair of the Marlborough Environment Awards Trust: MRC is a long-term sponsor of the Marlborough Environment Awards. Gerald always attends the Awards Event and flies the flag for MRC (literally, one year he put their banner up the front in prime position!) When Gerald presents the Supreme Award he always takes the opportunity to raise awareness of the work of the MRC. He is ambitious in his thinking, which we need in a small community.

Marcus Pickens, Wine Marlborough General Manager: MRC in Budge Street has been home to Wine Marlborough for many years and Gerald and the Trust’s continued development of the site has been truly visionary. The New Zealand Wine Centre is a centrepiece for collaboration, and external funders such as Kānoa, the Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, have backed a winner.

22 / Winepress June 2024 CELEBRATE

Focus on investments

John Patterson is a familiar face in a new position.

A STRONG personal interest in seeing the Marlborough Research Centre succeed has drawn John Patterson back to Marlborough.

John will take over from founding chief executive Gerald Hope on July 1. Originally from Wellington, John is no stranger to Marlborough, having worked for decades at the Marlborough District Council, for iwi, and on some of the funding applications that saw developments at the MRC campus in Budge Street.

“I suppose this is a natural transition for me to help the MRC realise the investments it’s made on the campus over the next three to five years. That’s probably my focus, get those investments maintaining benefits for the region.

“With latest developments, I have quite a lot of interest in seeing these through to realise their potential.”

He was first drawn to Marlborough about 30 years ago when a former colleague in Wellington, the then-new Marlborough District Council chief executive Andrew Besley, invited him over. “I visited him one weekend, and on the Monday I had a new job.”

Family took him back to Wellington about eight years ago, but he continued some contract work for local organisations. “Moving back to Marlborough is not a difficult decision for us.”

It’s a challenging environment to be able to sustain research funding in the region, John says, and he expects that to be a key component of his work at MRC, along with enhancing co-operation and collaboration between the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, the Bragato Research Institute, and Plant & Food Research.

“The Marlborough Research Centre is a 40-year-old organisation. I would quite like to leverage off its reputation and get some gains out of the central government in terms of recognising that development is best located and coordinated in the regions.

“MRC is key in that.” John says he would like to see MRC driving, and being a key champion of, research funding in the region. “I think Gerald’s led the MRC from modest beginnings to an organisation that’s pretty strongly invested in research and development infrastructure. From modest beginnngs to a $15m balance sheet - it’s quite an achievement.” He says the regional benefits that stem from MRC over the years are “quite substantial”.

“Gerald’s done an exceptional job. Hopefully, I can do as good a job over the next few years.”

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We keep you growing

Visit us at our purpose built building at the Riverlands Truckstop, 3535 State Highway 1, just out of Blenheim

Our experienced team now have a state-ofthe-art workshop to ensure your gear is always ready to work hard for you when you need it. Does that Silvan Sprayer need a service? We do sprayers, to tractors, right through to construction equipment. Give us a call or drop in, we service most makes and models and can have most parts for you in under 48 hours. Make sure your equipment is ready to work as hard as you do.

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Full circle

Dairy farming, marketing, design and research… Sanne Poulsen took a round-about route to become Babich’s winemaker


AFTER MORE than a decade in the wine industry, stepping into the winemaker role at Babich Wines last year came with a keen sense of having “come full circle”, says Sanne Poulsen.

Originally from Denmark, Sanne spent her high school years specialising in the sciences in preparation for veterinary studies at university. However, a six-month gap holiday in 2001 put paid to those plans, when Sanne fell in love with the untamed natural beauty of New Zealand.

“My parents were keen sailors and I loved rock climbing and hiking, so when I was growing up I was often out on the water with them, or dragging them out to come hiking with me,” Sanne says. “It’s ironic really, because I’ve always loved the outdoors, but have ended up working in a winery, largely indoors.”

At the end of her six-month holiday she took up the offer of work on a dairy farm in the North Island and spent the next four-and-a-half-years working in New Zealand while studying for a diploma in agri-business management.

In a complete departure from the outdoors-centric life she had led up to that point, she chose to study design and marketing at Otago University, followed by various research and consulting projects. After winding up in Blenheim for a “random job”, she got to know some winemakers who thought her skills were well-suited to a career in wine.

“With a background in science, combined with my practical experience in farming, they convinced me that the wine industry might be a good fit,” she says. “So I picked up a vintage cellar hand role at Vavasour in 2016 and knew immediately that it was something I could see myself in long term.”

After her first vintage and some work in the lab and in quality control at Grove Mill, Sanne moved back to Europe to further her career in the Old World of wine.

While working abroad she studied online with University of California, Davis and completed a graduate diploma in winemaking and viticulture.

After several vintages in Europe, including Burgundy and the South of England, Sanne decided to return to New Zealand and once again came down-under to run the night

“It’s ironic - I’ve always loved the outdoors but have ended up working in a winery, largely indoors.”
Sanne Poulsen

shift in the lab at Babich Wines. That was vintage 2018. After a series of promotions, culminating in the winemaker and lab manager role in 2023, Sanne feels that her self belief and patience has paid off.

“Individually, some of the work and experiences I’ve had might seem a bit random, but they’ve all contributed in some way towards this role,” she says. “Collectively, they contribute to this well-rounded skill set that could be applied to many different areas. It very much feels like I’ve come full circle.” After more than a decade in the wine industry working with some great winemakers around the world, Sanne has had plenty of time to develop her own winemaking philosophy.

“Being a good winemaker is all about having the ability to make a good assessment [of the fruit] and applying your skills accordingly. On a good vintage there is room to be very hands off and let nature shine. With a not-sogreat vintage I wouldn’t hold back from using a little bit of winemaker magic to make the wine as good as possible.”

Winepress June 2024 / 25

June 25-27, 2024

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Over 3 days, WinePRO will showcase the latest products, new technology, and connect leading suppliers with members of the wine production industry.

Ask questions and get the answers at WinePRO!

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Tackling issues

Climate change and labour shortages are two big issues keeping industry members awake at night, according to the 2023 Wine Marlborough survey. WinePRO explores those concerns through the speaker series.

Seasonal changes in grapes and building resilience

Between the 1960s and 2020s growing season temperatures have increased by 0.5C in Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago. Projected warming during this century will change the key dates of flowering, véraison and sugar maturity. Building resilience will require changing practices, including introducing new wine styles. “For Marlborough vineyards we may be saying hello Merlot”

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Understanding the wine industry’s workforce

Growers, wine companies and industry service providers were surveyed last year to share their insights on workforce and skills in the industry. This information was combined with an analysis of wine and viticulture job advertisements to create the Skills-Based Wine Workforce Report. Amanda will present key findings. The report will support businesses to use data and skills information in their workforce planning.

Future population and labour changes

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New Zealand’s population is changing rapidly. By the 2030s, the makeup of the regions will be very different. About a quarter of the population will be aged over 65 while the number of those going to school or entering the workforce will be much smaller. Most regions will see very little population growth or will be losing people. In this ‘new’ New Zealand, where do you get your workers from? Immigration is one answer but attracting and retaining workers and their families will become a significant challenge, says Paul.

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Attention at the border and beyond

The Government and industry groups work together to keep New Zealand safe from pests and diseases

FEBRUARY’S BIOSECURITY WATCH highlighted Marlborough District Council’s role in biosecurity within local government. This month, we look at what central government has in place.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is the government agency that oversees, manages and regulates New Zealand’s farming, fishing, food, animal welfare and forestry sectors, and protects its biosecurity.

Biosecurity New Zealand is a business unit within MPI. It provides overall leadership in biosecurity, focusing on stopping pests and diseases at the border and eradicating or managing the impact of those already here, to ensure our unique environments and the value of our primary industries are maintained.

New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) and other industry bodies work closely with Biosecurity New Zealand to prepare for and respond to pests and diseases that could badly damage our primary industries, economy, and environment. The mechanism to enable this partnership is called the Government Industry Agreement (GIA). In return for sharing the costs of biosecurity readiness and response work, the GIA allows industry stakeholders to take part in biosecurity decision making, and ensures industry views are heard and considered before any action is taken.

One of NZW’s key biosecurity contacts is Fin Lambermon, a relationship manager in GIA Partnerships at the Ministry for Primary Industries. She works alongside industry to ensure we’re best prepared and ready to cope with unwanted organisms, pests, and diseases.

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a breadth to the biosecurity system,” Fin says. “It’s not just what you see on Border Patrol; it’s pre-border too. It’s the work we do with our offshore counterparts, and with importers and exporters to ensure they’re meeting requirements before people and produce even get into New Zealand.

“What’s great about my role now is that I’ve seen and appreciated pre-border biosecurity work all the way through to the border clearance.

“A lot happens at the border, whether you’re importing cargo or mail, or a passenger coming through the airport, or even a yachtie sailing in from the islands. If something gets through, Biosecurity New Zealand looks into what has happened,” she says.

In the event that an exotic pest or disease is detected, there will be an investigation to determine how far it has spread, and the best way to respond. This may be trying to eradicate the threat, or managing it to limit the impact.

“Biosecurity is such a vast space to work in - I’ve been with MPI for 11 years now, and I’ve only really worked across two aspects of the system.

“Biosecurity in NZ is a massive system, so much bigger than people realise and so much bigger than I ever appreciated.”

Fin says that in New Zealand biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility. “While MPI might be the regulators, it’s all of us who’re jumping online and ordering things from overseas, importing goods and produce, and of course people are travelling; we all contribute to increasing risk, so everyone’s got a responsibility for biosecurity”.

Pre-COVID in early 2020, Fin worked in Japan as a Chief Quarantine Officer running the used vehicle program. New Zealand gets many used vehicles from Japan, approximately 120,000 a year. Before the vehicles even get on the ships to New Zealand, they go through a rigorous assurance system to ensure they’re free from pests.

“It’s essentially ensuring there are no unwanted pests like brown marmorated stink bug or other risks like organic material hanging around inside the engine bays or other compartments within the vehicle. And that’s just one example of the verification systems that MPI works with. My role in Japan was to look after quarantine officers and interface with all the verification providers. It was a great opportunity.”

Fin has been working for the last two and a half years on the Government Industry Agreement. “The GIA gives the Crown and industry a chance to work together to produce better biosecurity outcomes, and it’s quite unique to New Zealand.

“In some other countries, when something goes wrong, say a biosecurity risk comes through the border and a response is mounted, it can be the government body making all the calls into how things are managed, and industry sectors not necessarily getting a say, yet having to manage

their sectors through it.

“The foundation of the GIA is all about how can we work together? It’s proactively collaborating, preparing, planning, all so that we know that we’re ready for any pest or disease that might arrive. It’s also keeping them out as best we can, but if they do arrive, it’s a combined effort to respond to them”.

When discussing viticulture and the wine industry, Fin appreciates NZW’s role in leading some of the readiness work with Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and Pierce’s Disease (Xylella Fastidiosa). “NZW has been instrumental and is doing some great work getting operational agreements up and running, and getting industry partners alongside,” Fin says.

For any questions or assistance with vineyard biosecurity contact the NZW biosecurity team on biosecurity@nzwine. com. And if you notice anything unusual, please Catch It, Snap It and Report It to the Biosecurity NZ hotline 0800 80 99 66.

JWVM has capacity for the coming season. We welcome new clients to our management portfolio.

WE OFFER OUR CLIENTS: Fully customisable management plans, A team of quality, experienced operators, Excellent machinery and equipment, High standards of service & viticultural support.

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Winepress June 2024 / 29
PHOTO: Brown marmorated stink bug
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Wine Marlborough appoints advocacy manager

Ruth Berry, a connector with a strong background in strategy, research organisations and policy analysis, has been appointed the new advocacy manager at Wine Marlborough. Ruth comes to Wine Marlborough from her role as CoDirector (Tangata Tiriti) of the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge. It was one of 11 Government Science Challenges focused on collaboration with universities, industries, communities and non-government organisations to tackle big issues facing New Zealand. She has previously been executive officer at the Association of Independent Research Organisations, investment manager at the Foundation for Science and Research, and a policy analyst at the Ministry for the Environment. Making connections and advocating for winegrowers and wineries locally and nationally is a priority for Ruth. “Our connections with council, government and researchers are central to tackling issues and indentifying opportunities for the industry,” says Ruth. “My passion is to make sure that policy developed in Wellington is going to work for the user on the ground rather than being developed in isolation of an understanding of the practical implications of policy and regulation.” Ruth starts on June 17.

Winemaker sentenced for biosecurity breach

Berry is keen to see policy that works on the ground

Smart Machine Company wins Agritech award

An autonomous robotic multi-tasking vineyard tractor invented by the Smart Machine Company in Marlborough has won the 2024 NZ Hi-Tech Award for the Most Innovative Agritech Solution.

The tractor, known as Oxin, integrates complex technologies including AI and machine learning to enable different tasks to be carried out at the same time such as spraying, mowing, leaf-plucking and mulching. It improves vineyard efficiency, reduces environmental impact and helps solve labour shortages for winegrowers.

The Smart Machine Company has collaborated closely with Pernod Ricard Winemakers to ensure this is a tractor created in the vineyard, not in the lab.

Winemaker James Millton has admitted illegally importing Australian grapevines into New Zealand. Appearing in the Blenheim District Count last month, he was sentenced to five months community detention and fined $15,000.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said that in June 2019 Mr Millton took two cuttings from a Savagnin grapevine at a vineyard he was visiting in South Australia. The variety was not present in New Zealand and he wanted to cultivate it at his Gisborne vineyard. Mr Millton failed to declare the grapevine cuttings in his luggage at Auckland Airport and later asked two nurseries to graft further cuttings.

“The vines have since been destroyed and testing showed there were no exotic pathogens found, but Mr Millton was not to know that,” said MPI’s director of investigations Gary Orr.

NZ Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said this was a serious breach of New Zealand’s biosecurity requirements and is of extreme concern to NZ Winegrowers. “Plant material brought illegally into the country without having undergone testing and quarantine presents a very high risk to the industry, given many pathogens can be difficult or impossible to visually detect. In addition, many exotic pests and diseases are not grapevine specific, and have the potential to adversely affect other primary industry sectors,” Philip said.

Winepress June 2024 / 31
Ruth Smart Machine Company’s autonomous tractor


Entries open for Young Winemaker of the Year


Request for vineyard grazing

It’s that time of year again – if you’re under 30 and involved in making wine in Marlborough how about entering the 2024 Young Winemaker of the Year Competition? An information session for potential contestants is being held on 18 June, 4pm at the Marlborough Wine Centre. The competition is open to those involved in the production of wine, including cellar hands, cellar managers, lab technicians, assistant winemakers and winemakers. Emily Gaspard-Clark, chair of the Marlborough organising committee, says the contest covers a wide range of skills and knowledge such as blending, laboratory tests, viticultural knowledge, tasting analysis, health and safety, presentation skills and market knowledge. “Entering this competition is a great way to gain confidence and gauge where your strengths and weaknesses lie and what areas need more work. The competition also gets your name out there within the industry.” Entries close on June 21 and the Marlborough competition will be held on July 31. The winner from each region goes on to the national final on August 27/28. Meanwhile, entries for the Marlborough Young Viticulturist of the Year have closed. There are 10 contenders and their skills will be tested at the final at Whitehaven winery on July 4.

Grape Days - research you can use Long-spur pruning and management techniques for grapevine trunk disease are among the research topics being presented at the Marlborough Grape Days on June 24. Held at the ASB Theatre in Blenheim, the day of presentations kicks off with a Vintage 2024 update from New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan. The programme features a selection of the latest grape and wine research from Bragato Research Institute and New Zealand Winegrowers, with an emphasis on how to apply the findings. Other topics include the future of plant breeding, rootstocks and drought tolerance, and how vineyard practices impact the winery. Full programme and to buy your tickets: initiativesevents/research/grapedays

It’s been a long hot summer and farmers with drought issues are keen to secure winter grazing for their stock. NZ Winegrowers, Wine Marlborough and Rural Support are asking vineyard owners who have grazing available for this winter season to contact Sarah White from the Rural Support Network. sarah.white@ruralsupport. Ph 021 872 282.

Dam safety regulations relaxed

The Government has relaxed the height and volume thresholds that determine whether a dam will need a Potential Impact Classification. The regulations no longer apply to dams that are less than four metres high. For dams bigger than that, there needs to be an assessment of the potential impact that a failure could have. Dam owners must provide a Potential Impact Classification certificate to Marlborough District Council by 13 August 2024.

Upper Wairau Valley electricity

Marlborough Lines Ltd advises landowners in the upper Wairau Valley that its distribution network has reached full capacity, and additional electrical load including pumps cannot be connected at this stage. A network upgrade is underway to provide more capacity and this will be allocated to new connections on a first come, first served basis. If you require a new connection in the upper Wairau Valley, complete a new application online at or email

32 / Winepress June 2024
Wine tasting at the 2023 competition
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A monthly list of events within the New Zealand wine industry.

To have your event included in the July 2024 Wine Happenings, please email details to by June 20. For more information, go to the website supplied or email


12 Horticentre Charitable Trust OWNZ Kelly Mulville Tour (

12 Future of Work Career Expo (

14-15 Enchanted Evenings at FROMM Winery (

14-16 Marlborough Techstars Startup Weekend (

18 Information session, Marlborough Young Winemaker of the Year, 4pm, Marlborough Wine Centre

22 Whitehaven’s Matariki Night Market at Vines Village (

24 Grape Days Marlborough (

26 Fidelio Cheese and Syrah Masterclass (

25-27 WinePro: Vine to Wine, Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 ( Register as a trade show visitor ( Register for the conference (


4 Marlborough Young Viticulturist of the Year competition 2024 (

23 Grow Perform Sustain – Resilience Programme (

31 Marlborough Young Winemaker of the Year competition 2024 (


27 Young Winemaker of the Year National Final 2024 (

28 Young Viticulturist of the Year National Final 2024 (

29-30 New Zealand Wine, Altogether Unique 2024 (


AG AND VIT COMPANIES CAN HAVE FUN TOO! If you’re looking for social media support for your Vit or Agricultural business Call 027 578 7809 to discuss.

34/ Winepress June 2024 Young Viticulturist - July 4 Grape Days – June 24 For
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