NZ’s largest wine region enjoying forestry investment

Marlborough, the largest wine-growing region in New Zealand, is seeing booming investment in its forestry plantations and vineyard land as wine producers spend millions buying-up tracts of land there.

According to New Zealand news site Stuff, figures from the government’s Overseas Investment Office show 20,766 hectares of land in Marlborough was cleared for sale to foreign buyers between 2012 and 2016.

A big portion of that was already owned by foreign firms, but 12,657 hectares of New Zealand-owned land was also cleared for sale during the period, the figures show.

Stuff reported that Marlborough’s successful wine industry – 75 per cent of New Zealand’s total wine production comes from the region – has sparked major investment from foreign firms who have invested millions developing vineyard estates.

Wine giants Constellation Brands and Pernod Ricard are among the producers buying land in Marlborough over the past five years, with the biggest investment coming from Australian firm Treasury Wine Estates, which acquired about 560 hectares for an estimated $29 million.

Speaking to Stuff, Marcus Pickens, general manager of Wine Marlborough, the body which promotes the wine region, said while not everyone was in favour of foreign ownership in New Zealand’s wine industry overall it had been a positive thing.

“It’s an easy one to get on the other side of and say, ‘we shouldn’t have foreign investment’, but I challenge people to look back and see where we would be without it,” he told the website.

The presence of foreign wine producers had helped establish distribution networks and links to valuable markets, helping Marlborough develop its reputation as a leading wine region.

“That investment has to come from somewhere to grow, so it’s no surprise that some of that capital is coming from overseas,” he said.

In 2016, 7,103 hectares of Marlborough land was sold to foreign buyers, with forestry firm Blenheim Estate buying 4,973 hectares.

“Forestry was the biggest investment area for foreign buyers in the region, with Marlborough Forestry Industry Association executive officer Vern Harris estimating half the Marlborough estate was owned by overseas companies,” Stuff’s Oliver Lewis said.

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith told the website he backed investment from overseas companies, highlighting the wine industry as an example where foreign investment had been a definite success.

“The land can’t be taken anywhere, it still remains here, and there’s been some huge positives from foreign investment,” he said.

James Barrett, a spokesman for forestry investment experts GWD Forestry, said: “It’s clear that New Zealand’s wine industry is benefiting greatly from foreign investment in its forests and vineyards, a trend we expect to continue.”

 

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