Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fuelled a series of bushfires across the country, with the south east affected particularly badly. At least 24 people have been killed so far and more than 6.3 million hectares of bush and forest have been burned.
In the short term, wine organisations are encouraging people to support relief funds as the fire season continues. Longer term plans will be to help affected wineries recover, as well as boosting wine tourism.
Fire affected regions
In some regions of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, individual vineyards and vineyards have suffered ‘devastating damage’ which will take years to recover from, explained Andreas Clark, CEO, Wine Australia.
However, he says it is also important to keep the impact of the fires in context.
“Australia is a very large country with wine regions spread across it from the eastern seaboard right across to the west. Most fires have been in heavily forested areas or National Parks.
“While the toll on individuals cannot be underestimated and should not be downplayed, a review of fire maps suggests a maximum of around 1,500 hectares of vineyards fall within the fire affected regions to date. Even if all those vineyards were fire damaged – and they are not – it would only be about 1% of Australia’s total vineyard area.”
Clark says the wine sector will draw together to provide support and advice to those affected by the fires.
“Sadly, it is not the first nor the last time that Australia has dealt with bushfires. What we have seen in the past and no doubt will again in the future is an astonishing generosity where people have donated grapes and labour to assist their neighbours and friends to recover.”
‘Australia is hurting from the fires, but we are open for business’
Wine Australia, Australian Grape & Wine and the Australian Wine Research Institute are co-ordinating both short-term and longer-term responses to the bushfires: backed by the Federal Government and regional wine agencies.
“Responses must include relief for those directly impacted, including those growers who might not be able to sell smoke-affected grapes,” said Tony Battaglene, chief executive, Australian Grape & Wine.
“In the medium term we must look to strengthen regional tourism and bring people back to the regions.
“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.