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Bushfire Response - Update 9 January 2020

Throughout this unprecedented bushfire crisis, Australian Grape & Wine has been in close contact with the Minister for Agriculture, the Minister for Trade and the Prime Minister’s Office.

 

We are seeking an extension of the pool for the Wine Tourism and Cellar Door Grant to be extended to $20 million per annum, more funds for state and regional tourism, and support for smoke testing. Australian Grape & Wine is working closely with the relevant government departments and agencies to expedite any potential arrangements. 

 

Longer-term investment in R&D for vineyard management and in-winery remediation options to mitigate smoke taint, increased funding for regional tourism and financial support for growers are priority issues to ensure producers are supported throughout the recovery process. 

 

This week, The AWRI ran a webinar outlining the immediate response to be taken to maximise vine recovery post a fire event. You can watch a recording of the webinar here.  For any additional queries regarding this topic please contact the AWRI Helpdesk team, by email: helpdesk@awri.com.au or telephone: 08 8313 6600 during business hours.

 

All eligible Australian producers can apply for the Federal Government’s Disaster Recovery Payment (DRP).  This is a one-off payment of $1000 for eligible adults and $400 for eligible children who have been directly affected by a major disaster either in Australia or overseas. The DRP is not means tested.

 

For those who have lost their income as a direct result of the bushfires, the Government will provide a Disaster Recovery Allowance giving those eligible up to 13 weeks income support. 

 

The Federal Government will establish a new agency with an initial $2 billion for a national bushfire recovery fund to coordinate a national response to rebuild communities and livelihoods after the devastating fire-front has passed.

The Insurance Council of Australia can be contacted with any questions, complaints or concerns about insurance on 1800 734 621.  Consumer advocacy group Choice also has a comprehensive overview on insurance for bushfire affected people and businesses. 

 

 

Victoria

Much of south-eastern Victoria has been subject to fire or is likely to come under threat in the coming weeks and months. Most of the fires are in the East Gippsland area, where there are no or very few vineyards.

 

The fires south of Albury are within the King Valley, Alpine Valleys and Beechworth wine regions, which together have a total of approximately 1900 hectares of vines. However, the majority of vineyards are located to the west of the King River, but to date has not reportedly experienced any fire damage. Most of the damage appears to be along the border between the King Valley and Alpine Valleys GIs, where there are very few vineyards.

 

Gippsland has suffered severely and Rutherglen, King Valley, Beechworth and the Alpine regions are vulnerable in the next few weeks. This could bring up to 10000 tonnes under threat.

 

Wine Victoria is working closely with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and regional wine associations across Victoria to monitor and assess the situation.  In addition, to properly understand the impacts on producers, Wine Victoria have compiled a survey for producers to complete. This first-hand information will provide them with a broad picture of how widespread the damage is to date, whether that be assets damaged, vineyard damage, and/or the presence of smoke in a particular area. We encourage all Victorian producers to complete this survey, as it will inform their discussions with Government, Federal Agencies and Australian Grape & Wine, to ascertain the support that may be required for Victorian producers as they move into recovery mode.

 

Emergency Relief Assistance Payments are available for up to seven days after the event if you are unable to access or live in your home because of an emergency.  Emergency Re-establishment assistance is available if your principal place of residence (your home) is uninhabitable for more than seven days because of an emergency.  The Victorian State Government has also established a new agency, Bushfire Recovery Victoria (BRV) which will be wholly focused on the needs of Victorian communities, working closely with locals to ensure that rehabilitation projects are both locally-driven and locally-delivered.

 

For Emergency updates, the Victorian CFA VicEmergency Hotline is 1800 226 226. For further information on warnings and how to stay safe, please visit the Victorian Country Fire Authority website.  We also encourage you to download the Fires Near Me app on your smart phone and/or device.

 

 

Hunter Valley - Update

In terms of the effects on the Hunter Valley region and 2020 vintage it really is still too early to tell. Smoke taint is a reasonably new and inexact body of science and the region is currently working through all the options and procedures at their disposal to evaluate any perceived risk.

 

The Hunter Valley is very large valley and there are many factors at play including proximity to the fire, elevation, and days in smoke contact. The pleasing thing is that for most of the Hunter Valley, the fires haven’t been too close to vineyards.  The region is working closely with the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and last Friday sent 110 samples from across the region to be tested for all of the free and bound compounds that could be a present in finished wine.

 

Many vignerons have begun their harvest, guided by results from these smoke tests from the AWRI and sensory evaluation of micro ferments. The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest and most resilient region at nearly 200 years old. They have had good years and bad years and whatever 2020 brings, they are a resilient region and remain positive and productive in the face of the challenges from drought and fire.

 

NSW Government Disaster Relief Grants are available for eligible individuals and families whose homes and essential household contents have been damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster.

 

 

Adelaide Hills - Update

An alert was issued for residents in the Williamstown, Mt Crawford and Kersbrook area where a fire sparked in the South Para Reservoir and burnt about 4ha.  The fire has been contained but the CFS urges residents to stay alert and monitor local conditions.

 

To date the fires have impacted more than 60 grape growers and wine producers and the flow on effect within the region will be severe.  The devastation has hit close to home for growers, producers and wineries in the region with significant loses of vineyards, buildings, equipment, machinery and wine.  To help these local growers and producers and fund recovery efforts, the Adelaide Hills Wine Region set up a Fire Appeal, to ensure that all those affected, whether a grape grower, winemaker or brand, can fairly benefit from the goodwill of so many people and businesses who have already contributed with cash, wine and experience donations.  The money raised, through donations, fundraisers and auctions will be used to directly support the 63 growers and producers in the fire area and secondly the local wine industry. None of the funds will go towards administration costs. 

 

Producers are now able to access immediate Government Assistance.  South Australian producers can apply for Recovery Grants for Bushfire Affected Communities in South Australia.  Eligible producers may access grants up to $15,000. This grant is being administered through PIRSA.  

 

Rural Business Support is providing assistance to South Australian businesses to develop and implement plans to recover including with preparation for discussions with banks, lenders and insurance companies and in generating cash flow forecasts to meet financial obligations. They can be contacted by calling 1800 836 211. 

 

Finlaysons Lawyers are hosting a free Bushfire Insurance Session at 4pm at Goldings Wines on 13 February.  Registrations and further information can be found at the Finlaysons Website.

 

Our message is that Australia is hurting from the fires, but we are open for business. We need donations to the relief funds, support for our emergency services, and consumers to buy our wine and visit our regions. It is important to note that the fire season is not over and our temporary relief may not last.