Thursday 17 May 2012

Hansard of the Legislative Council


[11.10 a.m.]

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - This is my opportunity, too, to welcome the new member for Hobart to our chamber. I look forward to working with you as I do with the member for Western Tiers again for another six years.

Today's state budget -

Mr Harriss - That is not what you said via e-mail.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - Today's state budget, Madam President, is going to be brought down against a background of recession in Tasmania. I suppose it is a recession in technical terms but disputed by some, including the government.

The argument is, however, rather an academic one. The fact is that while the national unemployment rate continues to drop, Tasmania's continues to rise. As we have all heard, the state government's income from GST is going to be down by $14 million for the coming year; it will be down by $500 million over the next five years - a gloomy background for a budget indeed. I am not so gloomy and the reason is a recent tour of the electorate of Rosevears, where I saw some outstanding initiatives.

Madam President, on 9 May and 10 May, I saw some wonderful ventures. They included a vineyard and restaurant business being developed by a Tasmanian cycling champion who lived in France for 10 years; a Legana dairy property which has been in the same family for 170 years; a family-run potato farm which sells specialty varieties direct to retailers and the public; innovative regional craftsmanship at an artisan gallery; a walnut grower who triples the price of the in-shell product. I have spoken before about the Tamar Ridge vineyard, bought two years ago by a big Victorian producer who wants to make Tasmania the pinot noir capital of the southern hemisphere.

There is a family-owned orchard direct marketing to supermarkets and a family-run pig producer adopting the latest production techniques and also with direct marketing. All the ventures visited fit Tasmania's clean, green image and, I would argue, have long-term economic viability because of innovation or, you could put it, because they are being developed and run with thought and intelligence.

Wine production on the West Tamar is booming. Production and planting continues to expand and we could have visited dozens of sites but we decided to visit a family operation which has not much more than 5 hectares planted and the biggest, Tamar Ridge, of course now owned by Brown Brothers. The Velo vineyard at Legana is run by Mary and her husband, Michael Wilson, a former professional cyclist on the European road-racing circuit including being the first Australian to ride in the Tour de France. What sets Velo vineyard apart from many others of a similar size is the development of a new café and kitchen area with the help of a federal tourism grant of $100 000 and also the production of handcrafted cool-climate wines. It will open seven days a week in a few months and they will employ nine staff and have cellar door sales.

Not far from Velo vineyard is the Lovely Banks dairy. It totals 1 200 acres, it is just there at Legana and has been in the Griffiths family for 170 years. Some would remember the name of Eldon Griffiths, the former mayor of the West Tamar, and his son, John, now runs the business. They employ 20 people on three properties, casual and full-time staff. The farm uses recycled water waste from Legana and Grindelwald through a series of six ponds, a very innovative way of re-using that suburban waste water and it reduces the heavy pollution risk in the Tamar Estuary as the water was previously discharged into the Tamar.

I mentioned the biggest vineyard on the West Tamar region, Tamar Ridge. It is one of the vineyards sold by Gunns which was sold to Brown Brothers about two years ago. They have five vineyards in Victoria but consider none of them suitable for pinot noir production so they have developed that here in Tasmania. They have made the decision to buy the former Gunns vineyards because they want to make us the pinot noir capital. Ross Brown argues that although New Zealand makes good pinot noirs, they are seen as the leading producer of sauvignon blanc wines so that leaves Tasmania to pick up the pinot noir capital title.

I mentioned earlier the innovations in the production of potatoes and pigs. Wayne and Sue Adams of Holwell are cutting out the middleman in marketing their potatoes. They are going directly to retailers and a farmer's market with their variety of boutique potatoes. So are Michael and Sallie Lees who operate the Windara Orchard. They are dealing directly with supermarkets. They offer a large variety of apples. Their Jonagolds are particularly delicious.

For Chris and Lucy Landon-Lane of Tamar Valley Walnuts, it is all about value-adding - you can harvest and sell walnuts at $11 per kilo but the Landon-Lanes shell and dry their organically grown walnuts and they receive $35 per kilo. They are dried slowly at less than 30 degrees for a week to enhance the flavour and are sought after by the health food market.

We are told it is hard to make a buck out of pork these days because there are so many very big producers but Alan and Lyn Broomby at Winkleigh are not high-volume, corporate pig producers. It is a family farm made sustainable by keeping up with the latest production techniques and direct marketing to butchers and wholesalers. It seems that direct marketing is one of the keys to survival for these small producers.

I mentioned Brown Brothers, which are relatively big producers, but they have all thought very carefully about their businesses and, in my view, show the way to Tasmania's future - recession or not. I am proud to have them in Rosevears and grateful to them for helping to maintain my optimism about our economy.