Wineries lobby Govt for alcohol law change

Only six wineries in Marlborough will be left selling wine if the Government does not change pending alcohol law to recognise winery cellar doors as low-risk outlets, NZ Winegrowers chairman Stuart Smith says.

He said yesterday he hoped the changes mooted by the Government in the Alcohol Law Reform Bill would see wineries charged less for licensing fees because they are low risk.

Those changes are included in the latest version of the bill, which is yet to go back to Parliament to be voted on next month.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Judith Collins said the bill maintained the existing requirement for winegrowers to have an off-licence to sell wine from their cellar door.

"However, compliance costs for wineries will be taken into account in the development of the risk-based licence fee regulations. Since cellar doors generally pose a low risk of alcohol-related harm, we expect them to attract lower licence fees than higher-risk premises."

Mr Smith said it would be good if that were the case. He said that if those changes were not made, it could have a huge adverse affect on Marlborough.

"It would be a quadrupling of fees to have cellar door and a provision for local licensing authorities – the council – to recover all the costs.

"That would spell the death knell for a number of cellar doors, which in turn would be very negative for tourism within the region. One of the reasons people come to Marlborough is to taste wine. We could end up with half a dozen of wineries rather than the number we have now."

Mr Smith said the legislation as it stood now was very open, and there was enough in it that was very alarming. It made winegrowers very uncertain about the future of winery tourism.

"I'm sure [Kaikoura MP] Colin King is right up with the play. I hope Judith Collins has really done something there."

Mr King said he met with Ms Collins last week to discuss the changes in the Alcohol Law Reform Bill.

The minister and officials had responded to his argument positively, Mr King said.

He hoped that common sense would prevail.

"I hope common sense will prevail as cellar doors operate in a particularly controlled manner and aren't problem areas in regard to tackling the culture of excess drinking. We don't see kids staggering out of cellar doors and causing trouble.

"Winery cellar doors are an important part of this electorate's tourism industry and having them face a quadrupling of costs could be the death knell of a major player in our tourism industry; a major player which is enjoyed responsibly by many locals and tourists alike."

Mr King said he was lobbying hard and his arguments had been well received.

"Given the imposition of excise tax I am very aware of the need to keep fighting for victories that ease the wine industry's considerable burden at this time."

The Marlborough Express