Wineries continue legal stoush

17/09/2009 - 00:00


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THE wine business is an emotional one and passions rarely run higher than when business people get involved in the sector.

Wineries continue legal stoush

THE wine business is an emotional one and passions rarely run higher than when business people get involved in the sector.

An example of that may be the legal battle between two Margaret River winery owners that is scheduled to go to court next week.

South West businessman John Staley and his wife, Elizabeth, have gone to WA Supreme Court against the property developer Peter Laurance's Pivot Group in a fight over a right-of-way access to the high-profile Caves Road, which is considered a prime address for wineries in the prestigious area.

In some ways it is a battle of local business versus big money from Perth.

Mr Staley is known to have had a diversified portfolio of interests in the South West. Among the businesses he is known to have owned was sausage casing producer Bunbury Casing Works.

The former owner of Sea World on the Gold Coast, Mr Laurance's Pivot is a significant property developer in Perth, with the Century City building on St Georges Terrace being a recent significant project. Pivot is a big stakeholder in the listed company Axiom Properties.

But these disparate business backgrounds have converged in one of the nation's premier wine districts.

The Staleys established a vineyard known as Amarok Estate on land adjacent to Laurance Wines, which has a striking statue of a diving swimmer above a lake on the property, a landmark visible from Caves Road.

The two vineyards are at the northern end of Caves Road, close to Yallingup.

Amarok Estate's vineyard was established in 1999 on 20 hectares of land. The business is controlled and run by the family.

The 120ha Laurance Wines property has about the same area devoted to vines, with a 22ha vineyard. The vines, planted in 1996, were on a 40ha property, which the Laurances bought in 2001 before later expanding their holding with the purchase of adjoining land. Laurance Wines is chaired by Dianne Laurance.

Both of the vineyards stand on land that was once part of the same farm that was subdivided in the 1990s.

Amarok Estate is effectively land-locked and access to the property is via a right of way across the southern boundary of the Laurance Wines land to Caves Road.

Currently, it is understood that the right of way is a gravel track. Such an arrangement is not unusual in rural areas.

The Staleys want to develop the cellar door facility at their vineyard and sought to upgrade the road to handle more traffic in all weather conditions, a change that was expected to require the removal of some trees and widening of the area occupied by the road.

Pivot Group, which owns the land, has objected to that and sought an injunction against the Staleys from conducting any work on the right of way until the legal matter is concluded.

The Staleys are represented by Staffa Laywers' Kevin Staffa, while Pivot has appointed Lavan Legal special counsel Martin Bennett.




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