The national advocacy body Australian Vignerons, is in danger of winding up if support fails to increase in coming months. The organisation has written to stakeholders making it clear that unless support is forthcoming the board will have no alternative but to start the wind-up process.
Wine Grape Growers Australia (WGGA) was formed over a decade ago to provide a national voice for Australian grape growers. It has recently undergone a structural reform and change to trading name to ensure its relevance to industry stakeholders. The changes to membership, board and structure proposed in a new constitution received unanimous support when offered to members at the special general meeting in September 2016. However, this support has not been reflected in increased membership outside of South Australia and Western Australia.
Australian Vignerons provides a national voice for those who grow and make wine, and who are not supported by Winemakers’ Federation of Australia.
Australian Vignerons CEO Andrew Weeks is philosophical about the future of the national body. “The Chair, the board and I have done all we can to provide vignerons (both wine growers and wine makers) a voice into the future. No one has offered an alternative to the proposed reform. It is up to the Australian wine industry to support this body if they want it to succeed. If not, the only remaining national voice for the Australian wine industry will be that of the Winemakers’ Federation.”
Weeks said that this did not reflect apprehension toward the WFA, but was a statement that without Australian Vignerons the national grower voice would disappear, and the Australian Government could not be confident of effectively engaging with the Australian wine industry.
“One of our members puts it perfectly – a national advocacy body is vital insurance against poor policy being implemented, which can lead to damaging outcomes. Australian Vignerons was an important voice in recent WET rebate discussion and the move toward reform. It is an important voice to guide research and development priorities; without Australian Vignerons, grape growers will still have to pay compulsory research levies, but they will no longer have a say in how those levies will be invested in projects that affect their businesses.”
“We can only assume that despite direct communications with state and regional bodies, personal presentations at state and regional meetings, numerous media releases and regular newsletters in the Grapegrower and Winemaker clearly stating the current situation, that potential members do not understand the value, or do not see value in the organisation. We are not sure if growers in all regions fully appreciate the gravity of what might unfold if this does occur. State and regional bodies do not have a national remit, and cannot provide national representation. Assistant Minister Ruston has made this point clear many times.”
“On a crude average the cost to maintain Australian Vignerons works out to around 18c per tonne of grapes crushed in the 2016 vintage. If the industry is unwilling to invest 18c in Australian Vignerons for each tonne of fruit produced, then it has a problem.”
Australian Vignerons continues to strive to increase its membership to a sustainable level in a bid to preserving the national voice of growers and makers of wine, for the benefit of the whole wine community. Failure to attract membership from regions in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland and the warm inland regions by April this year will result in the wind up of Australia’s national grower organisation.