Thursday, 12 December 2019 10:23

Two from two for Simon Gourley

Written by  Staff Reporters
Young Vit of the Year and now Young Horticulturist of the year –  Simon Gourley. Young Vit of the Year and now Young Horticulturist of the year – Simon Gourley.

First he was the Central Otago representative at this year’s Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year. Then he was the National winner. Now Simon Gourley is New Zealand’s Young Horticulturist of the year.

One of six finalists in the competition held in November, Gourley was representing the Wine Industry against peers from NZ Plant Producers, Horticulture NZ, Amenity Horticulture, Master Landscapers and Floristy NZ Inc.

It is the second year in a row that a Young Viticulturist has taken out the Young Horticulturist title. It is also the second year in a row, that winner has come from Central Otago. Last year it was Annabel Bulk, from Felton Road who took home the winner’s trophy.

Gourley, viticulturist for Domain Thomson says he felt privileged to be involved in the competition and to represent the wine industry.

“It was hard work and strong competition to get to this point. But I’m feeling pretty good now and definitely happy the award has gone to Central Otago for the second year in a row.”

The prize package Gourley takes home is pretty impressive. Beside the winner’s trophy, he won $7500 from Fruitfed Supplies in travel and accommodation, $1000 from ICL Specialty Fertilisers, one-year membership to NZ Insititute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science and a selection of Aorangi merchant pruning tools.

The Young Horticulturist Competition is in its 15th year and remains a rigorous competition that attracts impressive young people from the wider horticultural industry, says the competition’s chairperson Elle Anderson. 

“It provides an opportunity for personal and professional growth for these exemplary young leaders who will inspire the industry and others to ensure our horticultural industry stays ahead of the world with innovations.” 

One of the sections of the competition involved giving a speech on a pre-arranged topic. The subject; Horticulture must continue to innovate and be a part of a positive solution to improving environmental outcomes across New Zealand.

This is what Gourley had to say.

That word, innovate. To me, it doesn’t necessarily mean invent a hydrogen fuelled tractor. It means be a leader, think outside of the box. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We all have a part to play in improving environmental outcomes. No matter how big, small, insignificant or monumental, it all counts.

So, how good does it feel knowing that the wine you see in-front of you right now, and all aspects of production, have been recorded, logged, submitted, audited and accredited as being a sustainable practice? 

I have chosen to focus my speech around the industry I am here tonight representing. 

The New Zealand wine industry has always been considered innovative, especially when it comes to environmental outcomes. 

20 years ago, the programme we now call SWNZ or Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand was initiated. The voluntary programme now has around 99% of the land producing grapes under sustainable accreditation.

So, what is SWNZ and why is it a positive solution to improving our environment?

SWNZ is our way of making sure everybody is doing their part. Being accredited means we are independently audited on our current operations. We monitor our water usage. Soil health and improvement is encouraged as we want to leave the land in better condition.

Around 100,000m3 each year is diverted from landfill due to the SWNZ programme. 

Fuel consumption, chemical use, disease monitoring, staff training, air pollution, ground cover. The list goes on!

This extensive record keeping, and auditing shows we have done everything possible to lower our inputs and leave a positive footprint on this earth by our vineyards, wineries and people. 

We are seen as a global leader in improving environmental outcomes through our sustainability programmes due to their longevity and level of participation. Other wine areas such as California, Australia and Chile, are looking to us with envy, hoping to emulate our programme so they too can effect positive environmental change with ease throughout their industries. 

The Productivity Commission recognised that New Zealand Winegrowing is precisely the low carbon emitting, high production land use New Zealand will have to expand if it is to achieve a sustainable low emission future. 

New Zealand Winegrowers do hold a leadership position with the SWNZ programme. But that doesn’t mean we can stand still. These programmes need to be evolutionary, ever-changing and innovative. Talk is not enough. No matter how great our progress is today we can always do better. 

Gourley’s speech is a great indication of why he is a future leader in the making. Massive congrats to him from all at NZ Winegrower.

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