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McLaren Vale growers lead environmental action

Mclaren Vale’s Gemtree Vineyards and Dog Ridge Vineyards have been recognised as the region’s environmental leaders in the 2006 McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Environment Awards.

The annual awards identify and promote sustainable practices in local winemaking and viticulture activities and winners were announced last night at the McLaren Vale Grower’s Dinner.

Gemtree won the SITA Innovation Award for its wetlands project while Dogridge won the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management Board (AMLNRM) Biodiversity Award for its re-vegetation efforts.

Dog Ridge also received a special mention for its greenhouse emissions project in the SITA Innovation Award category.

McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Viticulture Officer Lucy Hyde congratulated the winning growers on their efforts.

“Not only is McLaren Vale one of the most successful Australian wine regions, our growers are now becoming sustainable environmental management leaders. “The relationship between MVGWTA, SITA and the AMLNRM Board is a great example of industry and government collaborating to encourage environmental initiatives in private businesses,” she said. The Gemtree Wetlands project has helped conserve the local frog population and restore native vegetation and habitat for native fauna.

The project has also resulted in the removal of landfill from the Pedler Creek catchment.

Gemtree Viticulturist Melissa Brown said the business, which is run by the Buttery family, set aside 10 hectares of land in 1998 for re-vegetation and the creation of an artificial wetland.

“The wetland complex is made up of six artificial dams, fed by a number of natural drainage lines. The site attracts and encourages increasing populations of native fauna,” Mrs Brown said.

“The creek in the wetlands had been used as landfill for various hard rubbish and there was also a high level of woody weeds such as olive trees. A significant amount of work has taken place to reclaim this creek and restore it to its natural state.

“This will contribute to healthier waterways, improved biodiversity and facilitate more efficient catchment of water downstream,” she said.

Last year, Gemtree formed a joint venture with Greening Australia to provide conservation services and expertise at the wetlands.

“We contribute proceeds from our wine sales to the conservation organisation in exchange for their services,” she said.

The Buttery family is passionate about continuing its environmental work and would like to construct an exclusion fence around the wetlands site to minimise the impact of feral animals such as foxes, rabbits and cats.

“We hope that this will create a native animal sanctuary as well as improve biodiversity outcomes,” Mrs Brown said.

Dog Ridge vineyard owner and director Dave Wright said his team worked with Greening Australia to increase the biodiversity of fauna and flora within the wildlife corridor in the vineyard.

“We worked with the Urban Forrest Biodiversity Program (UFBP) to increase biodiversity of unproductive vineyard land and this played a pivotal role in linking the Onkaparinga Gorge and Aldinga scrub,” Mr Wright said.

“We helped Greening Australia and the UFBP to plant over six thousand local native trees and shrubs amongst 45 acres of vineyard. We have also been dedicated to replanting and maintaining our re-vegetation areas over the last four years.”

Chalk Hill Wines was also commended for its generous contribution to improving habitat for the glossy black cockatoo in the AMLNRM Board Biodiversity Award.

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