Development of this guidance note

This guidance note was initiated by New Zealand Winegrowers, in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment and Local Government New Zealand, as a way of promoting best practice to deal with the complex range and scale of resource management issues connected with the wine industry. Development of the guidance note involved three distinct stages:

  • identification and confirmation of key issues affecting the wine industry
  • preparation of draft guidance material, and
  • peer review.

The primary issues associated with the wine industry were identified through discussions with local authority practitioners and members of New Zealand Winegrowers; these were confirmed at the 'Planning for the Wine Industry' conference held in November 2006. Draft guidance material was subsequently prepared and circulated for comment to conference participants. Based on these comments, a revised draft was prepared and considered by a group of planning practitioners, local authority and winegrower representatives at a workshop held in May 2007. Feedback from workshop participants was used towards a final draft that was peer reviewed by the Quality Planning editorial panel and three experienced local authority practitioners.

This guidance note was updated in 2014.

Key Terms


For the purposes of this document, winegrowing refers to activities associated with the cultivation of grapes for wine in a vineyard. This process is also referred to as viticulture. Winegrowers are those that undertake the activity of cultivating grapes for wine.

Ancillary winegrowing operations

Ancillary winegrowing operations are activities additional to the primary winegrowing function on a site. For the purpose of this document, the most common ancillary operations are winemaking and the retail sale of wine produced on site. Additional ancillary operations may include cafes, restaurants and accommodation.

Grape marc

Grape marc is the residue left after the grapes have been pressed. It consists of grape skins, stems and leaves.

Photo of grape residue, including skins, stems and leaves
photo of grape residue including skinsstems and leaves                       

Crop protection devices

Protecting horticultural and viticultural crops involves techniques that can include the use of audible, visible, or physical means to discourage or frighten birds away from crops. The birds may be frightened by something new and unusual in their environment (eg, flashing lights or strange sounds) or by something that simulates a threat (eg, a gun or predator). Another option to protect crops from bird feeding is netting. Every situation is different, and techniques that work well on one site may not work at another; and different bird species may not react in the same way to a particular control option.

Photo of a gas gun in a vineyard

Photo of a gas gun in a vineyard

Photo of bird netting over grape vines
Photo of bird netting over grape vines

Frost-protection devices

For the purpose of this document, frost-protection devices are devices that are used to move air to reduce the risk of damage to crops from frost.

Frost-protection devices may either be permanent, consisting of a fan mounted tower, or helicopters may be used for frost control.

A radiation frost begins at ground level and gradually rises, and occurs when clear skies and calm winds result in there being no barrier to prevent heat loss from soil and plants. When the ground cools during radiation frosts an upper air layer, or inversion layer, will be warmer than the air that is closer to the ground.

Wind machines and helicopters capitalise on the development of an inversion layer in a radiation frost. Their purpose is to circulate the warmer air down to crop level.

Heaters (Return Stack Heaters) emit hot gases from a stack which creates convective mixing in the crop area, tapping the important warm air source above the inversion layer. A definition is provided below for “Return Stack Heaters” and “frost pots/smudge pots”. Please note, these definitions are only for the purposes of this document.  

Except for helicopter landing areas, the management of helicopter movements is typically outside the jurisdiction of local authorities, as they are controlled by Civil Aviation requirements. Requirements include, for instance, minimum safe operating height and weight limitations.

Return stack heater

Return stack heaters (“Smokeless heater frost fighting device”) are easily identified by both its chimney stack and the pipe connecting the stack to its oil pan. They work by burning oil within an enclosed metal bowl structure. The unburned oil is captured in a tube and returned to the bowl to burn again. Hot gas emissions discharge through a chimney stack and create convective mixing in the crop area. Note that Return Stack Heaters are not covered by the NES for Air Quality.

Return stack heaters


Frost Pots/Smudge Pots

For the purposes of this document, frost pots and smudge pots are a type of frost protection heater that essentially burns oil (or diesel) in open pots. These heaters do not contain a chimney or return stack pipe, and in most cases they work by producing smoke (rather than heat) to prevent frost from settling. These frost pots/smudge pots are prohibited under the NES for Air Quality.

Frost Pots or Smudge Pots

Sprinkler Irrigation

Overhead sprinkler irrigation is where water is sprayed continuously over the vines and ground. When the air temperature surrounding the vines drops below freezing, the water freezes on the plants. The latent heat of water when it freezes is the principle involved in protecting the plant.

An overview of the wine industry

The wine industry is an important agricultural industry in both the primary production and high-quality value-added sectors. The significance of wine production in New Zealand is indicated by the following:

  • The current producing area stands at 34,269 ha (2012 Vineyard Register Report), with approximately 66% of the producing area being Marlborough. The industry comprised over 700 wineries ranging from small boutique wineries to large company owned businesses in 2012. Around 50 percent of wine grapes are grown under contract for wineries by over 800 independent growers, with the rest grown by wineries themselves.
  • After taking into account the New Zealand wine industry’s interlinkages with the rest of the economy, in 2008 the industry contributed over $1.5 billion to New Zealand’s GDP and supported over 16,500 full time equivalent jobs. (NZIER report “Economic Impact of the New Zealand Wine Industry” April 2009 )
  • The wine industry is regionally concentrated in a number of areas including
    • Auckland
    • Northland
    • Waikato and Bay of Plenty
    • Gisborne
    • Hawkes Bay
    • Wairarapa/Wellington
    • Nelson
    • Marlborough
    • Canterbury
    • Central Otago

The industry is a strong contributor to regional development and tourism in these areas.

  • There is significant regional variation in the scale of wine industry activity. For example, some regions are far more dependent on ancillary operations than others due to the marginal return per hectare of land.
  • New Zealand grape growers and winemakers are committed to sustainable production, with approximately 95 percent of the winery productive capacity included in the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand Programme.
  • The wine industry is export-focused and dedicated to quality production, with products generally selling in the top 15% price bracket on overseas markets.

Wine is a significant contributor to the economy in 2012 export earnings were approximately $1.2 billion, with total sales of approximately $1.7 billion, current projections estimate that total value will exceed $2.2 billion by 2016. In 2012 the wine industry was New Zealand’s second most valuable export to the European Union and the United Kingdom, the third most valuable to Australia and Canada, and the fifth most valuable to the United States (Ex statistics New Zealand, global New Zealand trade report).

Industry governance is provided at a national level by New Zealand Winegrowers. It is the national body that represents, promotes and researches the interests of the New Zealand grape and wine industry. It was established in 2002 as a joint initiative between the Wine Institute of New Zealand and the New Zealand Grape Growers Council Incorporated. All New Zealand growers and wineries are members of New Zealand Winegrowers through their parent organisations, the Wine Institute of New Zealand and the New Zealand Grape Growers Council.

The wine industry in New Zealand is characterised by a wide range of operational types. Operations range from winegrowing only, ancillary cellar door facilities and boutique wine production, through to large-scale off-site wine production. These operations are not mutually exclusive and can change over time. Generally, winegrowers have to increase the scale of their activity in order to increase productivity.