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Central-West Wine Production to Decrease Following WET Rebate Changes

By Phoebe Newling

Vineyard Printhie WinesWET rebate changes may see central-west produced wine prices increase and tourism to decrease.  Photo: Phoebe Newling

Wine connoisseurs visiting the central-west region may have to forego some of their favourite wine varieties, as new changes to the Wine Equalisation Tax rebate may see some varieties vanish from liquor shelves.

The 2016 budget delivered wine tax reforms to clamp down on rorts that have plagued the industry for years.

The Federal Government says its wine equalisation tax (WET) reforms will save $300 million over four years, and give $50 million of that to the Australian Grape and Wine Authority to promote Australian wine overseas, and wine tourism at home.

The WET was originally designed to assist small to medium wineries and have contributed to many of the small to medium wineries that have opened up in the central-west region.

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In recent years, the growing wine culture in Orange and Bathurst has contributed to the rising tourism numbers as wine fanatics flock to the region each year to test some of the infamous cool-climate wine varieties.

From October 24th – 29th Bathurst will host the annual National Cool Climate Wine Showan event which receives submissions from all Australian cool climate wine producing regions.

In the past decade it is events such as these that have put NSW Central-West region on the map, as an established food and wine destination.

Orange’s food and wine has been put on the map extending its presence right to the inner-city Sydney suburb of Newtown.

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Vineyard owner Jim Swift first began operating his business Printhie Wines in Orange in 1994 and today has representation across Australian and internationally.

Mr Swift said such reform to the WET rebate would see majority of his business under the Printhie brand alongside 5 additional producers hosted by the wine marker forced to close.

“If they went ahead with the conditions stipulated in the budget, I believe we would lose almost all of our business.”

“We were becoming concerned that negotiations were falling off the tracks and we have a very strong body here within Orange, four or five of us would be dramatically affected and we are the larger producers within the region,” Mr Swift said.

Not only would Mr Swift alongside some of the Orange regions largest producers see their businesses forced closure. The large groups of tourists that visit the region for cellar door wine tastings would also evaporate.

“It has a multiplier of an effect these things, it will effect not only the producers but motels, hotels, tour companies and restaurants,” Mr Swift added.

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Jim Swift owner of Printhie Wines explains why many vineyard owners called upon the Federal Government to change to WET rebate initially. 

What happens to the businesses that work alongside Orange’s wine industry? 

Vine Ventures Tours is a locally owned tour service operating out of the Orange region. Owner, Bradley Ashton began touring cellar doors around the wine region almost three years ago. Mr Ashton believes that the wine industry is smart enough to evolve with the WET Rebate changes.

“If anything we’ll see an increase in wine prices,” he said.

“Some of the smaller boutique sales don’t go through bottle shops the cellar door and touring companies is their only option to make money.”

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Many believe that changes to the WET rebate is a step in the wrong direction to solving the issue of rorts cheating Australia’s first class wine industry. Time will only tell to whether these changes implemented by the Federal Government will impact the tourism numbers and the livelihood of many winemakers and their businesses.

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Discussions with the Federal Government remain ongoing to whether the alterations to the rebate will be worthwhile move for winemakers in the future.

Image Credit: Phoebe Newling, Charles Sturt University 

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