Cardrona distillery proposed

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014

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Southern-brewed single malt may make a comeback if a plan to build a whisky distillery, perfumery and museum in Cardrona valley is approved.

The plans by Zescent Group, run by Desiree Reid, have been welcomed by most of the valley residents, and yesterday, at a resource consent hearing in Wanaka, supporters spoke in unison.

Reid, who at 29 was the youngest elected representative of the Fonterra shareholders' council, sold her South Canterbury farm and moved to Wanaka last year to start a business. Her vision of a distillery making whisky based on Scottish techniques using Pisa Range water and specially produced barley, possibly from Cardrona, could take years to reach full production.

Reid travelled to Scotland three times for research and spent time at distilling courses and marketing seminars. Stills would be obtained from fourth-generation Scottish coppersmiths, Forsyths of Rothes, who make plant for Macallan, Balvenie, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.

She said Cardrona's climate was excellent for making and maturing single malt and the proposed site opposite the skifield entrance was the best of four options, with stable land that had never been mined and access to water.

A museum would be run by the community under the Cardrona Heritage Trust. "I spent a long time researching a large number of business ideas. Finally I settled upon something I love, whisky. My interest in single malt whisky developed in my early 20s while I managed a gastro-pub in London. Cardrona is a special place, I would like to be part of its future."

Cardrona Heritage Trust chairman Tim Scurr told commissioners Cardrona needed more development and was once a thriving hub. "Cardrona needs more year-round employment. Cardrona needs more places of interest and varied things for travellers, locals and visitors. Travellers expect to see varied attractions and have the opportunity to stop, rest and see.

"Whisky was very popular in Cardrona. One ex-resident was jailed in Southland for making the historic Hokonui whisky. Dare I say it, a relation of mine. Don't you think when someone is prepared to put their money where their mouth is, providing a good new industry, fitting for this community and district, they should be helped and encouraged especially when the Cardrona people support it?"

Only one objection was lodged by the Upper Clutha Environmental Society on potential visual landscape effects but the society did not appear at the hearing.

Commissioners said a decision would be made within 15 working days.

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