Weilong Winery

CRISP (Mildura) — My adjournment is for the Minister for Planning. The action I seek is that the minister acts to allow a statement of compliance for the Weilong wine company in Red Cliffs under clause 66.01-1 of the Mildura Planning Scheme.

The Weilong wine company has announced its intention to develop a site into a major winery. They have sought and received widespread community support for a winery that will ultimately have a capacity of 84 000 tonnes and will employ at the peak of the season up to 220 people. To support the winery, Weilong have been investing in vineyards and recently secured up to 20 000 tonnes of grapes from their own vineyards. The Weilong company is positioning itself to take advantage of the growth in the market for Australian-style wines in China. The Mildura Rural City Council has taken the position that the process of achieving a statement of compliance for telecommunications services is a two-step process in order to meet clause 66.01-1 of the Mildura planning scheme, which is common to all planning schemes in Victoria.

Step 1 is that Telstra provides an agreement letter, which means an agreement has been entered into. In order to meet the telecommunications condition requirements, step 2 requires a provisioning letter, which is a statement that all lots are connected to or are ready for connection, from the telecommunications network provider, Telstra. It is understood that the Mildura Rural City Council is one of the few councils in Victoria that takes such a stringent interpretation of clause 66.01-1. Telstra strongly disagrees with the position of the council and believes that step 1, an agreement letter, should satisfy the council as to the infrastructure to be installed.

The Weilong company has encountered a planning roadblock. It has been told that it requires a provisioning letter from Telstra for the supply of telecommunications. This letter requires that pits and pipes for copper wire are installed at the proposed site before the Mildura Rural City Council will approve the subdivision of the land to build a winery that the council has already approved for construction. Mildura Rural City Council has directed that the statement of compliance will not be issued until a provisioning letter is provided. For Mildura Rural City Council to provide a statement of compliance, a copper service — otherwise known as pit and pipe — has to be installed, with Telstra to provide a letter to confirm this.

NBN Co has made it quite clear that the service is currently serviced by wireless and that it understands that Weilong is seeking a wireless NBN service for their modern telecommunications requirements rather than copper wire. However, the council does not accept that NBN wireless meets the provisioning requirements derived from the state government, which is under clause 61.01-1.

The requirement for the works to be physically completed is a major problem. Telstra has rightly placed a low priority on installing pits and pipes due to the fact that they are never going to be used. No doubt Telstra will undertake the work in time, but these delays are certainly going to put the 2018 vintage in doubt. Worse still, Weilong may find somewhere else where planning is easier and more likely to deliver them a functioning winery by 2018. This could mean the loss of an $84 million investment and 220 jobs.

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