By Maia Hart, Local Democracy Reporter
Marlborough's councillors have urged council staff to act after a winery failed to submit its wastewater and grape marc monitoring report.
The Marlborough District Council carried out its annual wastewater inspection during harvest 2022, which puts winery waste from cleaning floors, equipment, tanks and barrels under the microscope.
There were 38 wineries that submitted information to demonstrate their compliance. The information in this report included annual reports, wastewater and soil sample results, as well as daily wastewater volumes, discharge dates, disposal area sizes and pH records.
Records show 34 precent or 16 wineries were fully compliant, while 16 percent or 6 were "technically non-compliant" and 50 percent or 19 were "non-compliant". No wineries were "significantly non-compliant".
Meanwhile, 23 onsite inspections were completed during March and April. The winery that did not submit its paperwork did not have any onsite inspection.
Council environment protection officer Tonia Stewart told councillors at an environment and planning meeting last month that wastewater systems differed depending on the winery and the volume of grapes being processed.
Stewart said the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP) had restrictions in place for the discharge wastewater to protect the health of soil and groundwater below.
"The common areas of non-compliance, were the exceedance of pH, wastewater ponding ... missing sampling events, and providing late information."
A report prepared by Stewart said it was "concerning" to note the significant increase in non-compliant winery discharges, and was likely a result of winery wastewater systems and management not being sufficient to respond to the harvest size, further exacerbated by labour shortages due to Covid-19.
Marlborough harvested 77 percent of New Zealand's grapes in 2022, equivalent to 441,649 tonnes. This was a 54 percent increase on the year before.
Stewart said five non-compliant wineries had since become compliant, four under PMEP rules, and one through a new resource consent.
She said they were also in the process of setting up a working group with Wine Marlborough to help address issues with winery waste as the industry grows to "future-proof" it.
Councillor Jamie Arbuckle said it was positive to see no winery was significantly non-compliant, but asked if any of the non-compliant wineries caused any adverse environmental effects.
Stewart said if there were any real adverse effects, a winery would be considered significantly non-compliant.
"The issues that we're dealing with are ongoing ... but not really major environmental effects - it is likely reporting," she said.
"Even with the exceedence with the volumes of grapes this year, that didn't appear to have a significant affect on the wastewater."
Meanwhile, councillor Ben Minehan asked if there would be any ramifications for the winery that did not submit its paperwork.
"Thirty-eight wineries submitted their paperwork, and one didn't ... isn't that a significant non-compliance?"
Stewart said they could not say if this was the case, as they had not been to the winery during harvest.
She understood the winery might also be looking to sell.
Minehan, who was backed by councillor Gerald Hope, went on to say he would like to see that followed up.
"They need to submit their paperwork. If 38 did, and one didn't, it's not acceptable."
Councillor Jonathan Rosene agreed, and said there should be greater punitive measures taken for a winery who did not submit their paperwork.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air