The survival of Australia's National Wine Centre is in jeopardy as money for the troubled project finally runs out.
At a meeting next week to decide the Centre’s future, it is expected that the Winemakers Federation of Australia, which took over running the Centre in July, will announce it is to pull out.
Federation chief Ian Sutton told reporters today it would take at least three years and over AU$1m (€550,000) for the Centre to break even, and that it was highly unlikely there would be money to tide it over until then.
‘To ask the (wine) industry to raise AU$1m plus at the moment is mission impossible,’ he said.
The news comes at the same time that Premier Mike Rann is reported as saying the Government is to refuse the Centre any further financial aid.
In Australia’s Advertiser newspaper, Rann is quoted as saying, ‘Why would we want to continue bailing it out? That would be throwing good money after bad. We will have to find something else for it to do.
‘It is a beautiful facility, but it is getting too few visitors.’
The AU$30m (€15m)Centre opened a year ago this month in Adelaide, jointly funded by the Federal and South Australian governments and the region’s wine industry. Its aim was to become a ‘world class interpretative, educational and entertainment centre representative of the whole Australian wine industry’.
Yet two months after it opened, it was in already in financial straits. With visitor numbers between 30 and 40 per cent short of the predicted 180,000 a year, and the centre running at a loss, it needed a cash injection of AU$1.75m (€975,000) from the South Australian Government to keep it from closing.
South Australia’s premier at the time, Rob Kerin, forecast a further AU$2m (€1m)would be needed if the Centre was to break even.
In June this year, it looked as if the Centre’s future had been secured. The State Government agreed to lease it to the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia who would take over responsibility for its management and operation.
Yet according to reports, July’s AU$500,000 (€250,000) goodwill Government grant to the Federation has all been spent, and the project could need as much as AUS$1m to keep going. As for actually making money, predictions are that would take at least five years.
It is not clear whether the Centre will be wholly or partially closed at this stage. Government-appointed advisors confirmed all existing bookings until Christmas would be guaranteed, and all staff would be paid.
Written by Tom Chippendale1 October 2002