07/05/2009 - 00:00

Wineries worried about neighbours

07/05/2009 - 00:00

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MAJOR wineries in the Margaret River region are concerned about the threat that approaching residential populations pose to their operations, raising calls for clarification of planning proposals and regulations in the region.

Wineries worried about neighbours

MAJOR wineries in the Margaret River region are concerned about the threat that approaching residential populations pose to their operations, raising calls for clarification of planning proposals and regulations in the region.

The encroachment of urban developments on wineries is not a new issue, nor is the threat they pose to the day-to-day operations involved with running a successful winery.

World-renowned grape growing regions such as California's Napa Valley and the Yarra Valley in Victoria are currently dealing with serious issues involving recently developed neighbourhoods bordering on pre-existing wineries.

Activities such as crop spraying and machinery movements at all hours during the harvest period are just some of the common causes for complaint from those living near vineyards.

Margaret River's Voyager Estate, owned by iron ore heir Michael Wright, and Xanadu Wines, which is part of the Rathbone family's wine stable, are concerned about the possibility of residential developments on their respective doorsteps.

Satterley Property Group purchased 800 acres abutting the northern border of both vineyards a couple of years ago; and despite assurances from the group's chief, Nigel Satterley that "development would retain the special character and environmental sensitivity" of the region, Rathbone Wine Group winemaker Darren Rathbone believes it could be a real problem.

"People move in with the idea of it being nice to live next to a vineyard without realising the kind of work that goes on in a vineyard," Mr Rathbone told WA Business News.

"The 24-hour operations and the fact that there might be machinery running in the middle of the night and all those kind of issues, nobody pays attention to."

Mr Rathbone said the land around the wineries must be zoned appropriately and there must be appropriate buffer zones between residential and viticultural uses of land.

"The idea that Michael Wright's putting forward, which is a right-to-use law, I think would be quite practical," Mr Rathbone said.

"If we can demonstrate that we have an established use of this land for this purpose, then for a neighbour moving in next door, it's kind of buyer-beware.

"Understand that this is what goes on rather than them having an ability to push and change things.

"Let's just come up with a plan that stops Margaret River becoming just another suburb and actually maintain the rural aspects and retain some of the character because it's that, that attracts everybody to it."

Ashbrook Estate owner, Tony Devitt, who has just completed the 31st vintage at his family's 17-hectare Willyabrup winery, echoes this sentiment.

"We don't have to build houses on our best agricultural land and on our best agricultural environment," Mr Devitt said.

"To grow the best grapes and make the best wine you've got to have the best sites because if you don't then you're going to have lesser grapes and that makes lesser wines, irrespective of how good the winemakers are."

Howard Park Wines owner and chief executive, Jeff Burch believes there is a high degree of concern in Margaret River.

"There is always going to be development encroachment but it needs to be quarantined and strictly controlled," he said.

"Margaret River is crucial to the WA wine industry and the wine industry has been crucial for the development of the region as well, so we both need each other and we both need a certain degree of protection."

However, Watershed Premium Wines managing director Geoff Barrett is very pro-development.

"Satterley's development, when it's finally approved, will also adjoin our property," Mr Barrett said.

"I see that as a positive, with more consumers and higher turnover.

"I don't see it as a negative at all."

 

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