Stoush brews between Moa and winery

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Moa chief executive Geoff Ross and founder Josh Scott want to expand their Marlborough Brewery.
Moa chief executive Geoff Ross and founder Josh Scott want to expand their Marlborough Brewery.

A foreign-owned Marlborough winery's attempt to stop Moa Beer from expanding its brewery "reeks of French snobbery", says chief executive Geoff Ross.

NZX-listed Moa was last month granted resource consent to carry out a $6.1 million expansion of its brewery in Jacksons Rd, near Blenheim.

Three parties - including two Marlborough residents and Cloudy Bay Vineyards, which is owned by French champagne house Veuve Clicquot - have since appealed to the Environment Court.

Ross today hit out at Cloudy Bay, accusing the winery of using "dirty tactics" to stifle Moa's consented brewery expansion, designed to increase its export capability.

"It seems they think Marlborough should be exclusively positioned as a wine region and that beer undermines that," he said.

"It reeks of French wine snobbery. I don't have problem with foreign ownership but I do with foreign control."

Ross said it was not appropriate for a French company to "dictate what's good for the Marlborough region".

"Every other wine region in the world has active craft brewers. So too should Marlborough."

Opponents to the expansion have been concerned the enlarged brewery would create more traffic, visual disturbance, waste water, noise, spray drift and odour.

There has also been concern about the amount of extra water the brewery would use.

Ross said he had less of a gripe with the appeals lodged by locals Philip Rose and Samuel Rose, and Simon Matthews.

"They're objecting more based on rational reasons; I'm okay with that but I think our rational reasons are stronger," he said.

"Where I'm really struggling is with an industrial-sized winery objecting to a tiny beverage dwelling."

Moa raised $16 million in its sharemarket float last November, for the purpose of expanding capacity at its Blenheim brewery.

The brewery wants to boost its production from 1 million litres to 12 million litres of beer and cider a year.

Cloudy Bay Vineyards estate director Ian Morden was unable to be reached for comment today and the Environment Court said it could not release details of the appeal.

Of 14 submissions made on Moa's proposal, one was neutral, nine were in opposition and four were in support.

Marlborough District Council planning commissioner John Maassen addressed concerns by imposing a range of conditions for Moa to adhere to.

Moa's shares slumped last month on news that the boutique beer maker expects to miss its 2014 sales forecasts.

Volumes sold in New Zealand and Australia were lagging expectations, the company said.

After initially trading on the NZX at an 8 per cent premium of $1.35, shares have fallen sharply and were trading at $0.85 this morning.

Ross said hitting-out at Cloudy Bay was not an attempt to divert attention from Moa's recent struggles.

"I think these are two very separate issues. One's about sales and one's about building a new brewery."

The Environment Court said no date had yet been set for the appeal against Moa's expansion.

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