Following a funding review that began in 2018, and significant industry consultation between November 2022 to January 2023, the review of Vinehealth Australia’s funding has now concluded.
Vinehealth, the Hon Clare Scriven MLC, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, and the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) carefully considered a number of detailed funding options. Each recognised the need for sustainable funding for Vinehealth, the current state of the industry, and the desire to minimise costs to vineyard owners.
“Late last week, we began advising South Australian vineyard owners of the new structure to Vinehealth’s mandatory levy, and the rates applicable to fees for the 2022-23 levy period,” said Suzanne McLoughlin, Acting CEO of Vinehealth.
“This new levy structure, including a base fee and a variable fee, replaces the $9.50 per hectare with a minimum of $50, which has been unchanged since 1996. With 27 years of cost increases, static annual funding and a significant proportion of growers paying a $50 levy, Vinehealth has become unable to meet its statutory obligations as per the Phylloxera and Grape Industry Act 1995 (Act) and our levy structure and rates therefore had to change.”
Vinehealth is pleased to advise that the South Australian Government has committed $500,000 to Vinehealth over two years. This funding enables a staggered increase to the base fee, minimising the impact and allowing growers time to adjust to increased levies.
“This government contribution reflects the Minister’s significant support for our grape and wine industry and recognition that any increase in fees is difficult. Vinehealth welcomes this contribution from the SA Government and thanks the Minister for this commitment,” Suzanne said.
The outcome of a staggered increase to the base fee, offset by Government funding, was in line with Vinehealth’s recommendation to the Minister, which was guided by feedback received during industry consultation and a deep understanding of current industry conditions.
The new rates for vineyard owner contributions for the 2022-23 levy period are a base fee of $100, plus a variable fee of $9.69 per hectare of planted vines in the Register as at 30 April 2023. Vineyard Owners are advised that electronic Notices of Assessment are due to be issued this week, with hard copies mailed shortly thereafter.
Coonawarra grape grower Pete Balnaves said while there was never a good time to increase levies, the modest increase to Vinehealth contributions was necessary.
“The work to prevent phylloxera and other key pests and diseases entering our vineyards is vital. We always need to ensure that Vinehealth Australia has the funding it needs to carry out this important work,” Pete said.
“The levy hasn’t changed since 1996 and I’m fully supportive of the levy increasing. This levy supports the South Australian grape and wine industry, allowing a unique focus on biosecurity activities. Let’s face it, without vines, we don’t have an industry.
“And it’s great to see the South Australian Government assisting the wine industry with the bridging funding that has been offered. This allows biosecurity work to continue while the levy is gradually increased. We are an important industry for the State and want to continue to be into the future.”
McLaren Vale winemaker and vineyard owner Drew Noon agrees that Vinehealth Australia’s work to protect South Australian vineyards from pests and diseases such as phylloxera is vital.
“Vinehealth Australia is working for growers to keep our vineyards free of both exotic pests and diseases, and endemic ones like phylloxera – a most important pest for South Australia, which has the potential to destroy all our vineyards including our old vines,” Drew said.
“I can’t think of a better group to do that work. They are a small group, funded by growers via a mandatory levy. They work directly with growers and are very efficient and professional at what they do. It’s very important that Vinehealth Australia has sustainable funding to continue their work.”
The vineyard owner contribution at the new rates, combined with the South Australian Government funding, will enable Vinehealth to deliver on the functions and activities in the Act for the benefit of the South Australian grape and wine industry.
“One of our first priorities is delivering the transformation of Vinehealth’s Register – work we’ve needed for some time,” Suzanne said.
This upgraded Register will allow Vinehealth to:
- Efficiently acquire and maintain valuable foundational data for the wine industry in a secure manner, and in accordance with the PGI Act
- Conduct permissioned and secure exchange of de-identified data to other platforms
- Rapidly communicate relevant information to vineyard owners based on the spatial location of their vineyards
And will enable vineyard owners to:
- More easily maintain planting and ownership records through enhanced design and functionality
- View planting information in a map format rather than the current textural format, and receive alerts and actions tailored to the spatial location of the vineyard – such as pest outbreak zones, prescribed burns
- Permission their planting information to be exported out of the Register to external sources
Vinehealth wishes to thank the following organisations for their direct letters of support received during the industry consultation:
- South Australian Wine Industry Association
- South Australian Vine Improvement Association
- Adelaide Hills Wine Region
- Barossa Australia
- Langhorne Creek Grape and Wine
- Coonawarra Vignerons
- McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association
- Riverland Wine
- Riverland Vine Improvement Committee
- Clare Valley Wine and Grape Association
These letters of support highlighted the importance of continuation and strengthening of Vinehealth’s highly valued functions and services that enable the future prosperity of the SA grape and wine industry, the need to increase funding, and the need for temporary government co-investment to support a staggered increase to the base fee.
For detailed information about the Funding Review, including the Consultation Paper and Consultation Report, click here.