WGGA takes seriously the need for greater integration with the winemaker’s advocacy body, the Winemakers’ Federation Australia (WFA). We have demonstrated this in a number of ways through our policy creation and issue management. We invite WFA to our discussions if appropriate and they invite us to theirs. WGGA initiated discussions with WFA in 2011 on forming the WGGA-WFA Joint Policy Forum to encourage unified industry policy ‑ the Forum now exists and is working well. All this said, and demonstrated, there are some very important commercial realities between grower and winemaker that need separate consideration. In my view (ie not formal WGGA policy) simple absorption of the grower community into winemaker politics is not an answer to better grower-winemaker relations – with no offence intended, the dynamics mean it is more likely to be a simple silencing of grower concerns. There are benefits to greater integration for both growers and winemakers but not at any cost to growers. The benefits need to be carefully identified and safe-guarded in any new management structure.
Integration with the WFA is also not as simple as ‘New Zealand has a single advocacy body, why don’t you just do what they have done?’ I hear this quite often from Australians and my eyes roll, I take a deep breath, and apologetically explain that I don’t think it’s that simple because there are differences between New Zealand and us. Firstly, the NZ wine sector is smaller – unity is easier to achieve. Secondly, the NZ wine product is more homogenous – at the premium end of the wine business – so the environment, and rewards, for closer collaboration are greater. This includes a smaller range of business models compared to Australia where there are independent growers who tend to be located at the commercial end of production as opposed to (sometimes) winemaker growers who tend to be premium producers. Finally, NZ production is dominated by fewer varieties so a larger proportion of industry members are equally affected by a ‘problem’ and have a stronger incentive to fix it.
I note that simple solutions rarely fix complex problems – but they can be used to sweep them under the carpet.
Executive Director, WGGA