The New Zealand wine industry leads the way with their sustainable wine practices and standards. The industry is strongly committed to reducing their environmental impact. There are over 500 wine producers with 10% holding full organic or biodynamic certification, and an impressive 98% of vineyard producing areas is Sustainable Winegrowing NZ (SWNZ) certified.
New Zealand Sustainable Wine Practices in Action
In New Zealand, BioGro and AsureQuality provide internationally recognised organic certification. Biodynamic producers in New Zealand are certified by Demeter New Zealand. SWNZ was established in 1997, is one the world’s first wine sustainability programs and sets winery standards to help growers achieve sustainability standards.
SWNZ wine sustainable practices have nine key focus areas that span all aspects of grape growing and winemaking. They are:
80% of New Zealand’s flowering plants and 90% of its insects are unique to the country. As kaitiaki (guardians) of our environment, New Zealand’s wine producers take a leading role in conservation of wildlife and the environment, in their vineyards and beyond.
Reduce, reuse and recycle. The majority of waste from vineyard and winery operations: vine prunings, grape stalks and marc (skins and seeds) is mulched and/or composted, then applied back on to vineyards and gardens as nutrients.
New Zealand vineyards thrive on many soil types, from the heavy, clay loams in Northland to dry, stony silts of the Wairau Valley. Soil management plans are required to help enhance site soil properties by: employing monitoring protocols; increasing organic matter; reducing the risk of erosion, and working to improve soil structure and fertility, and decrease copper levels.
New Zealand’s air is among the clearest on the planet, any vineyard or winery activities that could potentially impact it are constantly examined and refined. Soils are carefully monitored to reduce wind erosion and airborne dust, burning fires on vineyards is kept to a minimum to control smoke emissions, spray drift from vineyards is contained, environmentally friendly refrigerants are used and wineries are expected to monitor and manage their noise and light emissions to reduce social impacts.
Water access rights are granted in the form of resource consents by local government bodies under the Resource Management Act 1991. Sustainable water management within the sector centres on minimising water use and protecting the purity of our water sources. Vineyard managers are required to perform a balancing act between minimising use and providing enough water to assure fruit quality.
The rising cost of electricity and the high energy demands of wine production has seen the industry turn to energy conservation as a key focus area. The Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand programme works to benchmark and track energy use within the industry. Benchmarking industry energy consumption provides wineries with a starting point to reduce energy costs from, practical guidance and steps on how to improve energy performance, and examples of how other similar sized wineries are improving energy use.
The New Zealand wine industry has a holistic, integrated approach to pest and disease management. Members focus on the life cycles of pests and diseases, and how they interact with their environment. By understanding the bigger picture, impacts can be managed in a more cost-effective way, with the lowest possible impact on people, property and the environment.
New Zealand’s wine industry makes a significant contribution to the economy both financially and in terms of employment. Industry employers are in turn responsible for ensuring that their businesses have a positive impact on employees and their local communities: financially, socially and ecologically.