NZ winemaker Peter Yealands elects trial by jury on illegal dumping charges

Peter Yealands won the Lincoln University Foundation's South Island Farmer of the Year in 2013. (File photo)
FAIRFAX NZ

Peter Yealands won the Lincoln University Foundation's South Island Farmer of the Year in 2013. (File photo)

A leading Marlborough wine producer has denied allegations he illegally dumped a winemaking byproduct. 

Peter Yealands stood in the dock at the Blenheim District Court on Wednesday, as his lawyer told Judge Tony Zohrab he wanted a trial by jury.

The charges against Yealands, the founder of Yealands Family Wines, carry a maximum penalty of $300,000 each or a jail term of two years. 

Leachate run-off and ponding from grape marc dump sites in Marlborough.
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Leachate run-off and ponding from grape marc dump sites in Marlborough.

The 68-year-old is facing three representative charges, and his son's company Growco is also charged with breaching the Resource Management Act. 

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He was remanded until June 9 for a case review. 

Yealands Family Wines has the goal of being the most sustainable wine company in the world.

Yealands and Growco are both accused of dumping grape marc, grape marc leachate and a silage-making product without permission on the Wither Hills, and dumping them in circumstances where they could have entered water. 

The charges relate to alleged incidents last May. 

Leachate can have significant adverse effects on land and water if not stored appropriately.

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The maximum penalty for Growco, which is also facing three charges, is a fine of $600,000. 

Viticulturist John Wayne Sowman, charged along with wine company Babich Wines, was expected to appear in court on Wednesday but was remanded until May 23. 

He faces two charges similar to the ones Yealands is facing, relating to the alleged dumping of grape marc and grape marc leachate on a property in the Waihopai Valley.  

Babich Wines faces two charges with a maximum penalty of $600,000 each. 

Seven charges of discharging grape marc and grape marc leachate on a property at Redwood Pass have also been laid against businessman Michael Gifford. 

He is expected to appear in court in June. 

All charges are being brought by the Marlborough District Council. 

A court registrar said charges against Awarua Wines and farmer Phillip Woolley had been dropped. 

Council lawyer Antoinette Besier​ declined to comment on the status of the prosecutions on Wednesday, saying they were before the court. 

Council chief executive Mark Wheeler also declined to comment on Wednesday afternoon. 

About two years ago the council tried to facilitate a deal between a group of wine companies, the Marlborough Grape Marc Group, and Australian company Tarac Technologies, which was interested in taking grape marc in the region.

The arrangement fell over, but in November last year the council met with New Zealand Winegrowers, wine company representatives and Wine Marlborough to discuss the issue and challenges posed by the byproduct.

 - The Marlborough Express

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