Wine research centre needs Marlborough District Council funding

New Zealand Winegrowers needs $150,000 from the Marlborough District Council each year, for five years, to create a ...

New Zealand Winegrowers needs $150,000 from the Marlborough District Council each year, for five years, to create a world-class wine research centre.

A world-class wine research centre in Marlborough looks set to get the green-light from Government, an industry group says.

The proposed New Zealand Research Institute of Viticulture and Oenology is one of three finalists seeking to capture $25 million in government funding and be established as a Regional Research Institute.

The proposal is being led by New Zealand Winegrowers. ​

New Zealand Winegrowers general manager for science and innovation Simon Hooker said there was a strong indication from the Government they would be backed. 

The centre would place the district at the forefront of wine research, creating highly paid and skilled jobs that attracted "world-class minds", Hooker said.

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If the centre got approval from Government in October, the new building would be based at the Marlborough Research Centre in Blenheim.

But government support was contingent on council funding and the centre needed $150,000 from the Marlborough District Council each year between 2017 and 2022, Hooker said in a submission to the council's annual plan.

The council support would leverage $10.5m of government investment between 2017 and 2019, with potential for more investment in 2020 to 2022.

"A nice letter from council won't cut the mustard, cash is king," Hooker said.

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"It has incredible leverage, the return on your investment is huge."

The centre's budget was around $7.3m a year for the next 10 years, with New Zealand Winegrowers committing $900,000 a year over six years.

All grape and wine research would be driven from the centre, in a model similar to Nelson's Cawthron Institute. 

"The industry is incredibly market driven. We want to underpin its long-term viability with research and development."

Research would focus on improved flavour and aroma of wines, bio-security and sustainability.

The institute would employ a significant number of research and technical staff, Hooker said.

By 2018, 14 high-earning fulltime staff would be working at the centre, with links to Lincoln University, University of Auckland and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.

Marlborough was a natural choice for the centre, he said.

"In a slow economy, the wine sector has been an all too rare success story," Hooker said. "As Marlborough is well aware, an astounding 79 per cent of all New Zealand export wine comes from the region."

Marlborough's 79 per cent share of New Zealand's wine exports was worth $1.23 billion.

"As the direct economy is highly reliant on grape growing and wine manufacturing, it is essential that these industries remain vibrant and successful. Research is a key component to maintaining vibrant, forward-looking, flexible industries and organisations. 

"For every dollar the wine industry earns, approximately $7 more accrue in regional economic benefits."

Last year, the Government set aside $25m over the next three years to fund the development of regional research institutes, with the aim of making regional industries more competitive. 

An additional $40m was promised in this year's Budget for more regional research institutes.

The Government wanted institutes to focus on scientific research relevant to a region, with an emphasis on research into new technologies, new firms, products and services.

The wine research centre was one of three shortlisted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for government funding. 

The council would vote whether to fund the research centre at a budget meeting on Monday.

 - The Marlborough Express


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