Government announces funding for new Marlborough wine research institute

Marlborough is the largest wine growing region in New Zealand, with around 24,000 hectares of vineyards.
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Marlborough is the largest wine growing region in New Zealand, with around 24,000 hectares of vineyards.

Marlborough is the driving force of New Zealand wine, and a new funding announcement has ensured it will be the base for research that drives the industry forward.

A proposal by industry body New Zealand Winegrowers to create a new wine research institute in the region has been given the nod of approval by Government.

Steven Joyce, minister of science and innovation, made the announcement at Nautilus Estate, near Renwick, on Wednesday to delighted members of the New Zealand wine industry.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announces government funding for the new Research Institute of Viticulture ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announces government funding for the new Research Institute of Viticulture and Oenology, in Marlborough.

The wine research centre, called the Research Institute of Viticulture and Oenology, beat off other proposals to secure funding through the Regional Research Institute scheme.

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"The new wine research institute will support innovation in Marlborough and bring jobs to the region, will work to grow industry R&D intensity across the country, and assist related organisations to make the most of their unique business, technology, and economic growth opportunities," Joyce said.

The celebrations at Nautilus Estate over the funding announcement for a new wine research institute, from left, New ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

The celebrations at Nautilus Estate over the funding announcement for a new wine research institute, from left, New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan, Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith, New Zealand Winegrowers general manager research and innovation Dr Simon Hooker, Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, New Zealand Winegrowers chairman Steve Green, New Zealand Winegrowers research committee chairman Dominic Pecchenino, and Marlborough Research Centre chief executive Gerald Hope.

The research institute is the first to be given funding under the scheme, which was first announced in Budget 2015.

New Zealand Winegrowers general manager research and innovation Dr Simon Hooker said the research centre would help take New Zealand wine to the next level.

"We've built an enormous industry around really good quality wine, this is going to underpin that with good quality information for the long-term, sustainable future of the industry," Hooker said.

Joyce said the Government would be funding the institute for $12.5 million over the course of four years, after which he hoped it would become self-sustainable by accessing other contestable research funding.

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The project was being jointly funded by New Zealand Winegrowers, with support from other parties including the Marlborough District Council which had dedicated $825,000 over a six-year period.

Hooker, who led the development of the research centre proposal, said what form the facility would take and where it would be located would be discussed at a New Zealand Winegrowers board meeting next month.

"What we're not doing is building a university or a Crown Research Institute, we're building something different that will focus on the sharp end of the research spectrum."

"What we'll be delivering will be practical, innovative outcomes for the industry to move forward."

Details about the number of jobs the institute would create and what research it would be carrying out were not immediately apparent, however the announcement had been met with enthusiasm.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said the institute could be a "game changer" for the local economy, that would create jobs and provide a spin-off for other industries.

"We need more research and development capacity, we need more good jobs and we need more infrastructural support for our booming wine industry," he said.

"This announcement should help deliver all that."

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith said Marlborough, which produced 77 per cent of the country's wine, was the obvious place for the institute. 

"We are already a leading region in the wine making industry, and to be at the centre of research and development will lift innovation in Marlborough even further," he said.

"Regional growth is a priority for the Government, and I am proud for Marlborough to be at the forefront of this development."

The institute would become a central location for wine research in New Zealand, that would involve collaborations with the industry, as well as domestic and international researchers, Hooker said.

"The idea is to get key people from around the country in one place, in Marlborough, working together, and creating synergies around delivering that innovation," he said.

He hoped to see something up and running by June next year, saying the work around realising the project was just beginning. 

Two other shortlisted proposals for Regional Research Institute funding were refining their business cases to secure a share of the $65 million in total funding.

The next funding round for proposals opens in November.

Shortlisted proposals:

Centre for Space Science Technology, Central Otago, research allowing the use of space-based measurements and unique to New Zealand satellite imagery to develop solutions tailored to regions and key sectors, for example, in water resource management and regional planning.

Earth+Vantage, Southland, research using real time satellite and ground-based data to lift primary industry productivity across New Zealand, in areas such as precision farming, forestry and marine management.

 - The Marlborough Express

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