Vinehealth Australia has long stood as a steadfast guardian, committed to preserving the health and sustainability of the South Australian wine industry’s core asset, its vineyards.

As my tenure as the Presiding Member of the Vinehealth Board concludes, I am reflecting on the journey undertaken together over the last seven years.

I’m proud of the outcome of the recent funding review, which will underpin increased capacity and capability to serve industry along the supply chain with more innovative and technical solutions that increase biosecurity awareness and management for all vineyard owners. This will include a greater focus on the production and supply of high health planting material to underpin our industry’s sustainability.

Vinehealth will also be able to meet its obligations under the Phylloxera & Grape Industry Act 1995, including securing the industry’s most valuable foundational data (the Register). Data value will be increased by both its protection and more strategic use, enabled by the planned Digital Biosecurity Platform.

Operating under the Act, Vinehealth is an independent agency guided but not directed, by the responsible Minister of the day. Our Minister for Primary Industries, the Hon Clare Scriven MLC, has genuinely engaged with Vinehealth regarding the biosecurity needs for this important industry. The Board and I thank the Minister and PIRSA for their support, and we also thank South Australia’s wonderful regional grape and wine associations.

I particularly thank the skilled and dedicated Board members and the outstanding executive team, for their support in maintaining Vinehealth’s high standards, despite this period of inadequate resourcing, challenging industry conditions, COVID and government and ministerial changes.

And I commend the Board directors who willingly provided their time, skills and expertise, because of a passion for the industry, biosecurity or both; clearly not for any financial gain. It is my hope the incoming Presiding Member and directors will have similar opportunity to conduct sound biosecurity business.

Collectively, we have advanced Vinehealth Australia to a sustainably resourced position. It is a justified and appreciated outcome that will serve the South Australian grape and wine industry well.

Chairing this Board has been a heartening experience because of the skilled focus on strategy, process, governance, informed discussion and risk-based decision-making. This has been well supported by the clear sense of purpose and ambition to serve industry transparently and with expertise, shared by the small Vinehealth team under Inca Lee’s leadership – and now Suzanne McLoughlin’s leadership.

Together we have more work to do:

  • The wine industry is a significant, resilient and sophisticated industry that warrants elevated recognition of its broad contributions to the state, and by default, broader recognition of threats and the need for industry protection.
  • COVID assisted the general population’s awareness of biosecurity and we must keep building on that.
  • The romantic photography of tourists walking within vineyards by tourism and event agencies undermines the biosecurity messaging of the grape and wine industry. We must call out mixed messaging and overtly irresponsible visitation.
  • Vineyard owners must work harder to embed biosecurity in their daily practices, just like they have done with safety. Your investment in Vinehealth supports your investment at your farm gate. I encourage everyone to re-read Inca’s reflection in the June newsletter.
  • While Vinehealth’s awareness and vista must be Australia-wide in order to best protect SA vineyards, our strategic and operational focus is firmly on SA’s wine grape industry.
  • The expertise of Vinehealth is shared widely – for the whole industry’s benefit.

It is rewarding to reflect on the strategic pursuits of this Board and previous Board, the professional and technical diligence of the Vinehealth team and the strengthened collaboration with PIRSA and Minister Scriven.

Some of our more effective pursuits over the past seven years include achieving sustainable funding; our Responsible Visitation Campaign for the wine tourism industry; our risk analysis of the Mornington Peninsula rezoning; our Phylloxera Immersion Tour; our contributions to fruit fly outbreak management; our review of the phylloxera regulations in the SA PQS; our relationships with SAWIA, the South Australian Vine Improvement Association and all regions; our excellent comms providing ongoing education to members of the grape and wine industry; our virus work and diagnostics, our rootstock work and our many other projects.

Vinehealth does not operate in isolation – it recognises and responds to industry conditions, environmental conditions, government priorities and obligations, pest threats, specialist research and diagnostic capacity, other wine industry body agendas.

With this lens, Vinehealth always acts in the best interests of the South Australian grape and wine industry. This singular focus for the benefit of South Australian vineyards must be maintained.

I wish Inca Lee well in her new role at the South Australian Wine Industry Association where she will continue to work hard for our industry. I congratulate Suzanne McLoughlin on her worthy appointment as Acting CEO of Vinehealth Australia. And I thank both Inca and Suzanne for the smooth CEO transition process.

I wish the new Board and the Vinehealth team a productive era, and I thank all those who have contributed to, and supported Vinehealth through this complicated but successful period, in which collectively, we see Vinehealth ready and resourced to serve industry more comprehensively.

Dr Prue Michael
Vinehealth Australia Board 2016-2023
Vinehealth Australia Presiding Member 2019-2023

Dr Prue McMichael