Ministers visit Marlborough for wine, farming and high-speed broadband talks

Primary industries minister Nathan Guy addresses Flaxbourne farmers at the Ward Community Hall on Thursday.
SUPPLIED

Primary industries minister Nathan Guy addresses Flaxbourne farmers at the Ward Community Hall on Thursday.

Marlborough had a very ministerial day on Thursday, with three senior cabinet ministers flying in to the region.

Economic development minister Steven Joyce, communications minister Amy Adams and primary industries minister Nathan Guy were all in Marlborough.

Joyce and Guy attended a meeting with wine industry representatives at WineWorks, in the Riverlands Industrial Estate, where they were briefed about the impact of the earthquake.

Barrels toppled by the earthquake at Constellation Brand's winery in the Riverlands Industrial Estate, south of Blenheim.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Barrels toppled by the earthquake at Constellation Brand's winery in the Riverlands Industrial Estate, south of Blenheim.

Some wineries and vineyards sustained damage as a result of the earthquake, which industry experts say was worse than the previous large shock centred in Seddon three years ago.

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Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith said the meeting was a chance to see what assistance the Government could provide to the industry, which was facing capacity constraints because of tank damage.

Trevor Burkhart

Burkhart Estate co-owner Trevor Burkhart shows the damage done to his vineyard, south of Blenheim, by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

"It was about how the Government can assist the wine industry to deal with its tanks and logistics issues as quickly and efficiently as possible," he said.

This could involve sourcing stainless steel from overseas for storage tanks, as well as looking at the logistical challenges posed by the new, longer freight route through Lewis Pass.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the meeting was a good chance to update the ministers on the situation in Marlborough.

New Zealand Winegrowers had formed a Marlborough earthquake response team to act as a central point of information to keep members updated, Pickens said.

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At the meeting industry representatives also decided on how to inform their members and the wider public about the scale of the situation, which was expected to be announced next week.

Guy also visited farmers near Flaxbourne to see how they were coping after the earthquake, which damaged water supply schemes in the area.

"Their water schemes have been badly affected by the earthquakes, they've got damaged tanks, pipes and fittings," Smith said.

It was important the schemes were repaired before summer, when creeks and other sources dried out and stock were in need of more water, he said.

Farmers could apply for financial assistance through the $5 million package the Government announced last week to assist primary industries in earthquake-effected areas.

The communications minister was in Marlborough to mark the installation of a new high-speed broadband internet and cellphone service facility for the Waihopai Valley.

Adams visited the site of the facility, 800-metres above sea level on Big Hill, along with Smith, who said the service would benefit residents in the area.

"The opportunities that efficient, fast broadband and cellphone service will provide for these rural residents, farmers and businesses are many and varied," he said.

 - The Marlborough Express

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