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Premium wine producer Yealands Wine Group has won two golds at the 2022 International Green Apple Awards for its ground-breaking Biodiversity Plan.

Yealands attended a special awards ceremony at London’s Houses of Parliament on November 21 to acknowledge the company’s pioneering work to create a more biodiverse environment.

Yealands topped the Regeneration and Carbon Reduction categories at the awards, run by global non-profit The Green Organisation to recognise environmental best practice around the world. Judges were impressed by the company’s 30-year Biodiversity Plan, which will see around 270ha at its vineyard in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley planted with more than 1,000,000 native trees to improve water quality and protect and enhance sensitive natural areas.

As the first wine producer in the world to be Toitū carboNZero Certified from day one, Yealands has always measured, reduced and offset all emissions. The Biodiversity Plan goes even further to make a positive difference to the environment and community.

Grape vines are known to be indicator species for climate change, with small increases in temperature having a noticeable impact on grape ripening and the character of wines. This has implications for the unique cool climate wines New Zealand produces.

“When we launched, we had an ambition to become a world leader in sustainable wine production. We believe creating a more biodiverse environment makes for a healthier, more resilient vineyard – one that’s also more resilient to climate change,” said Michael Wentworth (pictured), General Manager Sustainability and Strategic Projects at Yealands.

Yealands partnered with Wild Lab to develop the plan, with input from Marlborough District Council and iwi. It builds on existing initiatives including extensive restoration of native vegetation within the vineyard to provide a habitat for rare and native birds and insects, and the installation of New Zealand’s largest solar panel array and a boiler that converts vine prunings into energy.

Last month, Yealands was the first winery in New Zealand to sign a Sustainability Linked Loan in partnership with ASB, with borrowing costs adjusted based on its performance against key environmental, social or governance targets. This aims to reduce total emissions and intensity by five per cent per annum.

Its ultimate goal as a founding member of International Wineries for Climate Action is to become carbon positive by 2050, moving beyond net zero to make positive contributions to the environment.

Yealands’ Biodiversity Plan encompasses five distinct stages, beginning with the restoration of Station Creek to collect runoff and improve water quality, followed by hillside planting, wetland planting that will create a habitat for freshwater species, and further plantings along the coast and gateway to the site.

Yealands also plans to make the plantings and development areas open to the public, while providing opportunities for students at schools and higher learning institutions, as well as other members of the industry, to participate and learn from its experience.

“Establishing a vineyard is usually about optimising “productive” land, which can involve large scale earthwork, diverting waterways and long-lasting environmental harm. But we want to show that large-scale organisations can exist in harmony with nature, creating “beautifully biodiverse” wines. By sharing our story and learnings we want to support our partners, the wider industry and consumers to make a positive impact,” said Wentworth.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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