Proposed fee hike a blow to wine firms

New Zealand Winegrowers chairman Steve Green said making New Zealand's wine industry fork out another $2.9m a year was ...

New Zealand Winegrowers chairman Steve Green said making New Zealand's wine industry fork out another $2.9m a year was "manifestly unfair".

Marlborough's wine industry will be the worst-affected wine region if a proposal to increase regulation fees by $2.9 million goes ahead, New Zealand Winegrowers chairman says.

The Ministry of Primary Industries announced on Monday it was proposing a $12.8m increase in fees for all of New Zealand's primary industries to maintain food safety and protect New Zealand from biosecurity risks.

Almost $3m would fall on the wine industry.

New Zealand Winegrowers chairman Steve Green said making New Zealand's wine industry fork out another $2.9m a year was "manifestly unfair".

"Here we are paying huge amounts to the Government and they are trying to draw more money from us. We are totally opposed to the proposal.".

The wine industry already paid about $200m each year in excise tax to the Government, Green said.

Marlborough would be worst-affected because a lot of export sales came out of the region. "They will suffer to a greater extent than any other wine regions."

The hike in fees would cover audit costs, inspection costs and costs for running the wine exports scheme, Green said. Wine exports topped $1.3 billion last year and the Government should be supporting growth, not imposing taxes.

Green would meet with Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy next week to express his concerns.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the industry was hopeful it could persuade the ministry to change its stance.

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"We hope we will collectively be able to convince MPI that the substantial contribution from the wine industry to the export industry, and the economy, is more than enough to offset this extra burden.

"I think there will be significant unrest and disappointment if this proposal is adopted as it stands."

Ministry of Primary Industries deputy director-general Dan Bolger said t the ministry last reviewed the food and biosecurity sector eight years ago, so it was time to do it again. "Since then there has been quite a lot of change and there is higher volumes of stuff exported, there are different expectations . . . and general cost pressure, which is a big part of it."

He said the increased fees would cover services the Government funds, including setting industry standards, helping gain market access and conducting lab tests for exporting.

 - The Marlborough Express

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