Uncertainty for Swan vignerons

Rebecca TriggerThe West Australian

A recommendation on the future of one of the State's premier wine and tourism regions is expected within weeks.

Massive population pressures in Perth have seen residential developments spring up on the outskirts of the idyllic Swan Valley, just 30 minutes drive from Perth CBD.

Now grape growers are waiting for a recommendation to Planning Minister John Day which some fear could pave the way for subdivision and residential developments beside arable farmland.

"When I spray my vineyard with fungicide … we spray up into the air," Faber Vineyard owner John Griffiths told _Countryman _.

Mr Griffiths, who is also the president of the Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association, said the sprays were organic but created an odour.

"I would usually take my washing in and close the windows of the house," he said.

"If the property next to me was subdivided I would have 20 to 30 neighbours … it will become untenable for me to carry out normal farming activities."

Ross Pamment, 45, has worked as senior winemaker at Houghton Winery for about 14 years.

There are plans to build a 100-bed nursing home next to his estate.

Mr Pamment said he feared the non-stop nature of harvesting and late-night truck movements during the harvest season would cause friction with residential tenants.

"My biggest fear is we would have to change the way we operate which potentially would make us unviable as a business," he said.

In Caversham, Daniel Pinelli, of Pinelli Wines, said a pending development would result in homes being built just 80m from his property.

An investigation into land use in the area was initiated by Mr Day and findings were published in a discussion paper last year.

It revealed the future of the Swan Valley, as sustained by agribusiness, agritourism business, lifestyle and recreational activities, was "under pressure and requires attention".

"Urban-style ribbon developments" were springing up along major roads and diminished the area's rural character, the report said.

_Countryman _ understands the department is expected to make a recommendation to the minister within weeks, following a public comment period.

Mr Day would not be drawn on whether the pending recommendation would prompt a review of the Swan Valley Planning Act.

"While I cannot pre-empt the report and its recommendations, I am confident that it will provide an opportunity for the current management of land uses in the Swan Valley to be reviewed with the long-term future of the area and sound planning clearly in mind," he said.

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