Gibbston winery's off-licence renewed

Bill Unwin
Bill Unwin
A Gibbston  winery has had its off-licence renewed for three years by the district licensing committee, despite an objection from its neighbours who accused staff of intimidating waving.

Wanaka Road Wine Holdings Ltd applied for the renewal for Mt Edward Winery, but an objection was received from neighbours Earl Matheson and Ana Bajurin on grounds of good order and amenity.

During a hearing in Queenstown on June 8, Ms Bajurin complained about the behaviour exhibited by the company's general manager, Duncan Forsyth, and vineyard staff towards the couple, who bought their property in December 2012.

After a complaint about loud music being played at the winery one morning in February 2013, the relationship between the parties began to sour.

At the hearing, Ms Bajurin said staff now waved ``in a ridiculous fashion'' while they were trying to go about their daily business, and described it as a form of harassment which caused them stress.

She had also requested that dogs at the winery be under control at all times.

Judge Bill Unwin said in his decision, dated June 16, the boutique winery had been growing grapes and selling wine successfully for many years and had ``never fallen foul of laws or regulations''.

The liquor licensing inspector described it as suitable and there was no evidence to indicate the company's directors had ``either encouraged or condoned Mr Forsyth's alleged behaviour''.

Regardless, the ``personal antagonism'' between the parties was not relevant to the committee's decision.

``On the other hand, we are bound to point out that from our perspective the issues are ridiculously simple to solve.''

However, the inability to ``control the escape of noise'' could reflect on the suitability of a licensee to continue to hold a licence.

``The escape of noise such as music, particularly in a country environment, is an example of bad management, quite apart from being bad manners.

``If the escape of loud music, or the actions of dogs were somehow associated with the selling of alcohol, then we might well have the jurisdiction and the power to make a difference.

``But in this case, they are not.

``Absent a link between the selling of alcohol pursuant to an off-licence and the music from the winery, the company is entitled to have its licence renewed and we have little hesitation in doing so.''

Following the initial complaint to the winery, Ms Bajurin attempted to speak directly to Mr Forsyth from time to time but it became clear to her that he was starting to resent the calls and her texts and at any event took little notice of their concerns.

The couple contacted the council to complain, but eventually stopped due to the number of times the noise would abate before noise control officers arrived.

``[Ms Bajurin] stated they were concerned about being charged for any future visit.''

The alternative was to arrange for a professional assessment of noise levels; that was not done. However, the couple kept a diary of ``noise nuisance'' from March to early June of this year. It detailed 16 issues involving either music, or dogs, ``or waving from the winery''.

Ms Bajurin submitted Mr Forsyth was unsuitable to hold a liquor licence, or manage or train staff, or even represent the wine industry in a professional and personal capacity.

Judge Unwin said the committee was confronted by ``a number of difficulties'' in coming to a decision.

The objectors had concentrated on the issue of the applicant's suitability, but it was Mr Forsyth's suitability which had become the issue.

While there was no way of knowing whether the company's directors were aware of the allegations, ``it is our view that they should now be made aware''.

Judge Unwin said refusing the off-licence would have ``no effect'' on the amenity and good order of the locality.

``Such noise as is generated would continue as the production of wine takes place.

``Apparently the workers like to work to music.

``And whether the off-licence is granted or not, dogs may continue to roam.''

Judge Unwin said resource management rules governed the way the company operated and noise was specifically regulated and, while it may involve cost, there was a process for the couple to lay complaints and the ``veracity of such complaints'' to be assessed.

``The consequences of breaching the resource consent conditions can be commercially devastating.

``There are rules and procedures and potential consequences if the rules are broken.''


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