Hunter Valley wine industry representatives have joined forces with the NSW Opposition to call on the O’Farrell Government to reinstate the cellar door subsidy scheme.
Opposition Leader John Robertson, Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment and Regional and Rural Affairs, Mick Veitch and Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr recently met with wine industry representatives in Pokolbin to launch the campaign.
Following the introduction of the GST in 2000, an agreement was struck between the States and the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth collecting tax from the wine industry and then returning it to the States, who then pass it back to wineries via a rebate.
Last year the NSW Government axed the rebate – costing wineries an estimated $3 million a year.
Mr. Robertson said the decision has cost local jobs and called for the Premier to reconsider.
“Following major job losses at Kurri and in the mines, we can’t afford to lose more jobs in the Hunter as a result of a bad decision by the O’Farrell Government,” he said.
Mr. Veitch labelled the decision to cut the subsidy an “ill-considered grab for cash” that puts the Hunter wine industry at risk.
“Some vignerons have indicated they will close their cellar door outlets and others have indicated they may move their operations to South Australia or Victoria, where the rebate is still in place,” he said.
Following the visit, Mr. Barr said he is still hoping NSW Labor will take a definitive approach to reinstate the subsidy if they win a future term of government.
“I continue to fight for this result in Sydney,” he said.
“Our local wineries are internationally renowned, but all of that has been put at risk by this thoughtless decision by the Liberals and Nationals. The O’Farrell Government needs to reinstate this rebate before it’s too late.”
A petition is available at Mr. Barr’s office and Hunter Valley Wine Country Tourism and the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association are encouraging members and the community to show their support.
Hunter Valley Wine Country Tourism executive manager Dean Gorddard said the consequences of losing the subsidy will impact on the Hunter Valley brand and reputation.
“The knock-on effect will be felt by our loyal base of return visitors and the flow-on will potentially hit other parts of the local tourism industry including accommodation, restaurants, attractions and wine tours,” he said.
Brokenwood Winery’s general manager, Geoff Krieger, has been involved with the ‘saga’ right from the start.
“All they seem to be concerned with is how much money they can save,” Mr. Krieger said.
“What this means for local businesses such as Brokenwood, is that we are having to reduce staff – which we have already done – and any available money that we could have put towards tourist numbers has just disappeared.
“We have also had to start charging for tastings and increase our prices across the board. But all of this is not enough to offset the losses.”
Mr. Krieger said the winery had had huge support from its customers.
“They just think it is ridiculous,” he said.
“The government really needs to take a step back and look at this decision rationally but they seem to have just dug their heels in and won’t budge.
“For a Liberal government that are supposed to stand for free markets, it just makes no sense to do something that essentially puts the handbrake on the economy.
“But we are not going to give up or go away. We will keep hounding them until the next election if we have to.”