Adelaide's National Wine Centre is managing to attract only a third of the visitors needed to meet targets.

January attendance at the Centre, designed to showcase Australia’s wine industry, was 7,300 – well short of the target of 20,000.

‘That was the best month to date,’ said sales and marketing manager Claire Dalton.

Privately staff are highly sceptical that the revised target of profitability in eight months will be met, and advertising has been put on the back burner. As one source said, ‘At this stage it would be a waste of money.’

The Centre has been dogged by controversy since it opened in October 2001. Although South Australia produces 70 percent of the country’s premium wines, much of the dispute involves placing the centre in Adelaide, rather than Sydney or Melbourne. Government bailouts and lukewarm attendance records ensure a continuance of the debate.

The original business plan called for the Centre to pay its way the day the doors opened. When revenues failed to cover costs, the South Australian government was forced to pay an additional AU$1.75m (€1.02m) in December.

It also remains to be seen whether South Australia’s new Labour government will be as keen to support the Centre as its Liberal predecessor.

In January, the then Liberal premier Rob Kerin said a further AU$2m (€1.2m) might be necessary. But elections last week saw a change in state government, with Labour’s Mike Rann taking over. This may raise questions about any further bailouts should the Centre continue operating at a loss, commentators say.

Written by Lynn Elsey11 March 2002