New Vinehealth Australia Director Alec Gilbert is passionate about wine. As Chair of the National Wine Centre and former CEO of the award-winning Adelaide Convention Centre, Alec brings valuable experience and knowledge to the table.
At Adelaide Convention Centre, one of Alec’s roles was to market the unique selling features of South Australia and Australia.
“Our wine industry was obviously a key component of this and I’ve always been a lover of wine,” Alec said. “However, it wasn’t until I was asked to Chair the Board of the National Wine Centre about a year ago that I became more intimately involved.”
Since joining the Vinehealth Board in September, Alec says his eyes have been opened to the true damage that pests and diseases could do to our grape and wine industries.
“The more I learn about the increasing potential of vine infestation, the more concerned I’m becoming,” Alec said.
“Sources of risk include increased movement of equipment, product and personnel. Add to that the growth in importation of agricultural goods and tourism and it becomes obvious that biosecurity risk is increasing.
“The problem is, while risk is increasing, the resources committed to tackling it have not – for many years. It’s a real challenge that must be addressed.”
Alec said he would love to see Vinehealth Australia better financially resourced. “There’s a tiny team at Vinehealth Australia working to not only safeguard the state’s wine production, worth $2.15 billion annually, but also to assist with managing an infestation should it occur. This to me is a high risk strategy,” Alec said.
“We’ve simply got to get better resourced, we’ve got to increase awareness of the risk and I’d love to see Vinehealth leading the way by hosting an annual international event on biosecurity right here in Adelaide. Conferences attract expertise, encourage the exchange of ideas and research results, promote business opportunities and focus interstate and international attention on the local industry. But first we need the resources.”
Alec said the biosecurity story is a strong one for South Australian wine.
“We have a great story to tell. South Australia has led the way with wine industry biosecurity and we can capitalise on the ‘clean green’ brand. Commercially it has potential, but all those involved in the industry will need to make a coordinated effort to protect it – and because pests and diseases don’t respect state borders, it has to be a national effort,” Alec said.
Alec will help to tell that story as part of his role as Chair of National Wine Centre.
“We believe the National Wine Centre has a key role to play in telling the story of the Australian wine industry and becoming a ‘must see’ attraction for those interested in experiencing and learning about it,” Alec said.
“We are therefore developing the ‘Wine Discovery Journey’ project which will facilitate multicultural visitation and interaction using AR and VR technologies to provide a totally immersive experience – and it will of course tell the phylloxera story and South Australia’s unique response to it.”
Alec said the potential synergies of having Vinehealth Australia and the National Wine Centre, along with other key industry bodies, in the one complex offers enormous synergies. “The opportunity to increase awareness of the need for increased biosecurity within the industry and to visitors is potentially enormous,” Alec said.
“With increased cooperation and coordination of effort I think we have a great chance of building some exciting momentum, which will benefit all parties in the wine industry.”
Alec has a background in International Convention Centres having been CEO of the International Convention Centre, Durban, South Africa and CEO of the Adelaide Convention Centre. Now a consultant, Alec is leading initiatives to develop better collaboration across the wine industry and to leverage opportunities for visitor and industry education. He is commercial, has extensive experience working with boards and government and brings a strong focus on innovation and technology.