March (No. 494)
Road map to united national grower/winemaker representation
Winegrape growers from across Australia met for a series of workshops in January and early February, to have their say on the future of a proposed national peak body for grapegrowers. Grapegrowers have been without national representation, since the previous Winegrape Growers Council of Australia (WGCA), dissolved in early 2004. However, the issue of national representation for not only grapegrowers, but also of the need for a single voice to represent the whole wine industry at a national level, has been bubbling throughout 2004.
When Federal Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, opened the 2003 National Winegrape Conference in Mildura, he expressed his preference as Minister for the wine industry to speak with “one voice” when consulting with Government on industry issues. More than 250 grapegrowers and industry suppliers heard the Minister’s address that day, and few have forgotten his sentiment.
An interim body was formed by the winegrape-growing organisations of the Riverina, Murray Valley and the Riverland during 2004, called Wine Grape Growers’ Australia Inc., (WGGA Inc.) This body has since embarked on a program to form a new national organisation – Australian Winegrape Growers Council (AWGC) – that can represent grapegrowers throughout Australia. WGGA Inc. was successful in achieving funding under the Commonwealth Government’s industry partnership program, to develop a business plan in support of a new peak industry body representing winegrape growers nationally. Further, the proposal includes a structure for the new grapegrowers’ organisation to then form part of a united peak body, dubbed Wine Industry Australia (WIA), incorporating both the new AWGC and the existing Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA). This united WIA would then represent both grapegrowers and winemakers, as one voice on industry issues. As a larger representative group WIA would have greater influence with Government and be a more-powerful lobbying force to speak for the whole wine industry.
With the industry partnership program funding, the Centre for International Economics was commissioned to prepare the discussion paper “A national winegrape growers’ organisation,” and facilitate consultation with grapegrowers via workshops held across regional Australia, from Griffith to Margaret River, in order to prepare a formal business plan.
In January, The Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker editor, Anita Donaldson, attended a South Australian workshop held at Murray Bridge and journalist Terry Gange attended the Mildura workshop, to hear growers’ thoughts on the issue first-hand.
What became very clear at these, and other workshops, is that the issue of national representation is not going to be easily resolved. Growers clearly support the general concept of a national body for grapegrowers, but within wider discussions at the workshops, serious questions regarding membership of the body, its funding, State by State representation, and voting rights, will require considerable cooperative effort and input to resolve.
NOTE: The complete article can be found in the March issue of The Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker.