2 Nov 2017

Wineries prepare for earthquake disruption

8:26 pm on 2 November 2017

The wine industry's ability to prepare for future earthquakes is the focus of new research being funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

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Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

The November 2016 earthquake affected growers in North Canterbury and Marlborough, causing the loss of several million litres of wine as well as damage to important infrastructure.

Nick Gill, the general manager for Greystone and Muddy Water Wine in Waipara, said while their winery had been lucky to escape the November quake with only very minor damage, the closure of State Highway One north of Kaikōura had cost the business hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr Gill said because tourists were bypassing the coastal highway between Christchurch and Picton, the number of people visiting the winery's cellar door had dropped significantly - while their shipping costs had increased.

Nick Gill, the general manager for Greystone and Muddy Water Wine in Waipara.

Nick Gill, the general manager for Greystone and Muddy Water Wine in Waipara. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

He said although New Zealand was a great market for the business, it did export a lot of wine and most of it went to the Picton port.

Mr Gill said all of that stock now had to go through the Lewis Pass, instead of up State Highway One.

"The transport company has passed on that additional cost to us very quickly, but of course we don't pass that on to our customers. We have to absorb it and that places more pressure on what is already a challenging business."

Marlborough Wine Limited general manager Marcus Pickens said the impact of the quake had been significant, with about 1000 winery tanks - used to store processed and finished wine - damaged.

"A number of those [tanks] were completely written off, so it put a significant amount of pressure on the wine sector here to repair or rebuild those tanks leading up to harvest. So it was a very disruptive time for the industry," he said.

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Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Mr Pickens said the industry was the country's fifth largest exporter - with about a million litres of wine leaving his region every day alone.

He said one of the challenges directly after the quake was reassuring the international market that New Zealand could still keep up with the demand for product.

As part of its earthquake recovery fund, the Ministry for Primary Industries is supporting $300,000 worth of research to look at how the industry can better prepare for future events.

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Wine researcher Nicholas Cradock-Henry Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Nicholas Cradock-Henry, the lead researcher for the project, said he would look at how winegrowers could provide a co-ordinated response in reassuring the international market after an earthquake and manage logistical challenges, such as the closure of important freight routes.

But he said he also wanted the research to provide practical solutions for growers - including looking at engineering improvements to winery tanks so they better handle quakes.

"The most favourable soils for growing wine are also on some of the most active faults," he said.

Dr Cradock-Henry said he hoped to run workshops with winegrowers in Marlborough and North Canterbury later this month and expected to have some preliminary findings early next year.

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