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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Paul Tudor

The New Zealand government has passed sweeping changes to the country's wine laws. The new legislation follows a review of wine legislation in 2000, which, in turn, was a response to the Coopers Creek and Lintz Estate scandals of the late 1990s. The wine law will be administered and enforced by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), instead of the Ministry of Health. Under the new Wine Act, passed on 22 October, the industry will be able to develop specific wine standards. These standards should cover the gaps in the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code, which came into force last year. But the most contentious change requires that winemakers develop, register and maintain wine standards management plans (WSMPs). These are assurance programmes following the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. The plans, which will be subject to independent verification, will document all winemaking processes and establish audit trails. This rule applies to all winemakers, not just exporters, though they have up to three years to register their WSMPs. Otherwise, the new Act takes effect from 1 January 2004. The new legislation has been drafted in consultation with industry body New Zealand Winegrowers. However, opponents claim that the new regime is overly restrictive and will adversely affect the New Zealand industry's competitiveness.