New Zealand Map Poster
Auckland and its region
In the mid-twentieth century, vineyards and orchards dominated Lincoln Road, Henderson, which was lined with hoardings advertising fruit and wine for sale. While a few names from that period still survive – notably that of the Mazuran family – the sale in 2008 of the vineyard land of Collards Wines, and that of the quaintly named Mother’s Cellar of the Farac family, marked the final stage of the urbanisation of that landscape.
Like some of the vineyards in the Graves area adjoining Bordeaux, the landowners have been unable to resist the imperatives of escalating property taxes, the problems associated with growing grapes in a built-up area, and the attraction of the capital gains associated with selling land now zoned commercial or industrial. Such decisions do not come lightly for the people who nurtured these vines and their enterprises in the sometimes difficult natural environment of West Auckland. Bruce Collard was driving past the family’s beloved Shanty Block, renowned for its Malbec, when the digger was uprooting their vines. He burst into tears.
Yet, despite its small area in grapes, compared with Marlborough or Hawke’s Bay, by some criteria Auckland remains the most important wine region in the country. Over 70 per cent of New Zealand wine is bottled or packaged in Auckland and most exports of wine leave through its port. At head offices in the city, executives and boards make major decisions concerning their companies that have vineyards, wineries and other assets distributed throughout New Zealand. From its Symonds Street headquarters, Josip Babich began growing grapes in 1916.
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His descendants have developed a major family-owned enterprise with twelve vineyards around the country as well as wineries in Auckland and Marlborough. Nigel Gardiner
New Zealand Winegrowers also plays its role, as it represents grape growers and wine companies within the country and internationally.
Transforming and revitalising the Auckland vineyard
The sequence of dispersal and growth of new localities growing grapes and making wine in the Auckland region has many nuances. From the beginning of the twentieth century, the Henderson-Oratia area had a number of vineyards and cellars, with Pleasant Valley Wines owned by the Yelas family and Corbans in Henderson being the first to emerge there. The second West Auckland concentration in Kumeu-Huapai originated in the 1930s and 1940s, with two families – the Brajkoviches and Nobilos – being among the first to grow vines there.
At mid-century, Croatians owned over 90 per cent of the enterprises holding winemaking licences in West Auckland. Many of them were part-time growers and winemakers, having often started their enterprise by making wine for family consumption. A number of these Croatian settlers had initially worked in Northland digging kauri gum or farming before migrating to the periphery of the country’s largest city.
While these two main nodes of viticulture still exist, the Lincoln Road part of the Henderson-Oratia locality has largely been converted to urban uses, whereas inclusion in the special zoning for the Waitakere Ranges – which restricts further subdivision into small lots – means that Oratia’s vineyards and orchards will now most likely survive.
The mixed fortunes of the Auckland region over the last 40 years are closely related to the actions of the enterprises involved in this region’s wine industry. Many of them focused their attention on other parts of the country with higher potential to grow grapes for making unfortified table wine. In Poverty Bay, Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay, and later in Waipara, Auckland companies let contracts to grow grapes, some of them purchased land, and they established and extended their presence in these regions. Metropolitan Auckland itself received its share of the capital invested because companies enlarged their existing finishing, bottling and administrative arms there. Improving the regional organisation of their systems of production, processing and distribution was one objective of these companies: Auckland has always been their main New Zealand market, and main point of departure for wine exports.