Category Archives: Voyager Estate

The bitter sweet taste of denial: Voyager Estate supported the IPA publication


Parting is such sweet sorrow...

The management of Voyager Estate have replied to my questions about their relationship to the publication “Climate Change: The Facts”. They have also stated their views on the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic global warming.  

I’ll reproduce the letter in full in the interests of fairness:  

Dear [Name],  

Thank you for your email and for referring us to your blog.  

Voyager Estate would like to reaffirm its long-held commitment to environmental best practice at its vineyard and throughout its value chain. We make constant progress in improving our environmental performance and have done since we formally commenced environmental management in 2004. I will come back to our current practices, however first, a response to your enquiry.  

The views of the owner, senior managers and staff not surprisingly reflect the raft of attitudes to this issue in the community: passionate believers, quiet supporters and those that sit on the fence. We are incredibly proud of the fact that we rigorously apply, and sometimes set the benchmark for, the very best industry practices in relation to environmental stewardship.  

In all our endeavours, environmental or otherwise, we are constantly striving to make well-informed decisions. It is also our owner’s philosophy to contribute to debate on matters of public interest. Any call for honest debate about climate change is consistent with these philosophies and we support deep, critical and objective enquiry into the causes and consequences of climate change and how best to deal with those causes and consequences.  

The reality is that climate change, as well as being a scientific issue, is also an emotional one and on that basis it is not surprising to see contributors to this book tagged as climate change ‘deniers’. However, the request to make an advance contribution to an independently-funded publication that seeks some clarity around climate change was responded to in good faith. In fact, we would be willing to contribute a similar amount to any other organisations seeking to add to this debate and we welcome further offers. We simply support the debate being had and, like most of the population, are trying to find some answers.  

For the record, we have signed no petition of any kind and are not sure exactly what petition you refer to. [Note: I had mistakenly referred to the the list of names in the inside flap as a petition, when in fact it lists organisations supporting the publication “Climate Change: The Facts” ~ WTD]  

In addition, our donation was made prior to the book’s publication and accordingly it should not be seen as support for the views or opinions expressed in the content of the publication. As noted above, the owner’s philosophy is to contribute to debate on matters of public interest.  

Returning to the matter of current practices, we would like to share with you the activities and initiatives that have enabled Voyager Estate to build the strong environmental reputation that it has. In 2004, when we formally introduced environmental management to our business, environmental management systems for wineries did not exist. In the absence of an industry-endorsed EMS, we used our initiative and adapted an existing viticultural EMS developed by the state Department of Agriculture, rolling it out across all our business areas – vineyard, winery, cellar door, restaurant, gardens and sales & marketing. To do this, rather than employ external consultants, we decided to form an internal Environmental Management Team from our existing staff. This was so new in our industry it was the subject of a wine sector case study. (Attached)  

The outcomes of our EMS have been extensive and tremendously beneficial to the way we operate our business. Key outcomes include:   

* Use of 100% green energy since 2007 and commissioning in 2009 of an energy audit company to develop initiatives for reducing and  

recycling our energy and developing renewable sources of our own.  

* Commissioning a latest-technology winery wastewater treatment facility with a view to recycling water back onto vineyards.  

* Five native revegetation projects on previously under-nourished creek lines and former water courses and around the dams.  

* Starting a winery grape marc compost area, to be re-integrated into the vineyard soils.  

* Ongoing pest control of rabbits, foxes, yabbies, noxious weeds and Kikuyu from creek lines and revegetation areas.  

* Re- packaging of our wine to be more environmentally-friendly, including 100% recycled and recyclable Australian-made cartons; changing from a heavy French bottle to a lighter Australian bottle for the Chardonnay; changing to a new-range ‘lean and green’ bottle for the Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc Semillon in 2010 (trial already completed in 2009) with roll-out to other wines as new bottles become available.  

* Recycling initiatives for all departments including glass, plastic, paper, aluminium cans, printer ink cartridges, batteries, and waste oil, both engine and cooking.  

* The development and application of full Viticare environmental risk assessments and subsequent action plans in each department.  

* Using pesticide-free insect control measures in the vineyard.  

All of these achievements have been recognised by our winning the Winery Initiative Award in the inaugural Cape to Cape Catchments Group Catchment Care Awards (2008) and our being selected as a participant in the Australian wine industry’s EntWine programme, the first industry-endorsed and internationally-recognised wine environmental stewardship and certification programme. We were only one of eight wineries in Australia to be selected for the pilot.  

These initiatives and successes speak for themselves in demonstrating Voyager Estate’s position as a leading practitioner in the environmental arena.  

As an aside, the contribution made to this book is dwarfed by the amount of money invested by Voyager Estate in our environmental initiatives stated above. Green Power alone each year costs us a premium of 100 times more than that contribution amount, a contribution which was a one-off.  

We hope that his clarifies our position for you and we appreciate the time you have taken to contact us to check your facts. However, we can’t help but mourn the times when conversations were had and facts checked before publication. It seems that in the current world with internet news, blogs, twitter etc this is becoming an uncommon practice.  

Kind regards  

[Name etc.]  

Firstly, I would thank the management of Voyager Estate for replying to my enquiries in such a polite and professional manner.  

I think they should be congratulated on the host of environmentally related initiatives that they have no doubt invested considerable sums. However, I do not think this satisfactorily answers my questions.  

In the interests of fairness I contacted Voyager Estate. I do not believe on simply throwing out unsupported accusations. Unlike those in the denial movement, I am not afraid to allow people or organisations the right of reply. In this I agree with their last sentence: in today’s worlds of blogs, twitter etc. no one bothers to check facts. I like to pride myself in doing so.  

The publication, Climate Change: The Facts (CCTF) calls both the science and scientists into question. It is not a balanced publication presenting views from both sides. Indeed, this publication recycles nearly all the arguments used by the “climate change sceptics”. It questions whether or not there is a scientific consensus on the issue.  

The truth, as most of us fully informed about the debate appreciate, is that there is a very strong scientific consensus on AGW.  

The phrase “open debate on the issue” is simply code for “we like to deny the science”. Again, George Orwell would weep with how our language is being abused by the denial movment.  

Wikipedia sums the global consensus. It lists the dozens of scientific, professional and industry bodies that have issues statements supporting the science. This is an addition to the IPCCs various reports, the agreement within the peer reviewed literature and the consensus amongst climate scientists:  

“No scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion since the American Association of Petroleum Geologists adopted its current position in 2007…”  

Those individuals who one would classify as “non-consensus” are in the majority either unqualified or scientists lacking expertise in climate science. The few scientists that are sceptical (Plimer, Lindzen) represent an insignificant percentage of the scientific community. The “debate” is purely manufactured and deliberately so, as the documents in the Evidence Library show:  

“The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science. Americans believe all the strange weather that was associated with El Nino had something to do with global warming, and there is little you can do convince them otherwise. However, only a handful of people believes the science of global warming is a closed question….”  

The primary strategy of the denial movement (as outlined in the Luntz memo) is to cast doubt on the scientific consensus. The IPA’s publication clearly falls into this category. Indeed, it is textbook example.  

My final take on the issue  

Voyager Estate was approached by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). The IPA’s position is well known publically. CCTF is a publication that seeks to confuse the debate. One is left with the impression that Voyager Estate has posted its colours to the mast.  

I agree with the above email from Voyager Estate: within the community there is a wide range of views on climate change. I can only conclude this is the official position of Voyager Estate. Personally, I am disappointed.  

On this issue – as a customer – I cannot in good conscience support an organisation that questions the scientific consensus on AGW. I’ll be drinking my last bottle of Voyager estate this weekend.  

Sadly, it will be the last drop of their wines that pass my lips.  

[Note: here is the the inside cover of “Climate Change: The Facts” listing Voyager Estate]

Voyager Estate replies to question about climate change denial: “Why do you ask?”

As per my post (Prominent Australian wine maker is “sceptical of climate change), I have been investigating possible connections to the denial movement and Australian businesses and organisations.

After several days of waiting Voyager Estate have replied. In short, they ask why would I ask:

Thank you for your email of 19 April 2010 which has been forwarded to me for reply.

In the interests of providing a relevant response, I would be grateful if you could let me know some information about you and the reasons for your enquiry.

Kind regards

[Name etc. not published]

Voyager Estate (if it is indeed the same company) features prominently in Climate Change: The Facts. If this is their stated position, then one would hope they would back that up or correct any misconceptions.

The reply is from management. My response, as follows:

Dear [name]

Thank you for your reply dated 20 April 2010. My interest is two fold.

Firstly, I came across the publication “Climate Change: The Facts” and noted that Voyager Estate was featured prominently as an organisation calling for an “open debate” on climate change. Having been to your winery – and sampled both the wines and food – I was curious to know if it was indeed your organisation.

Secondly, and to be honest, I maintain a blog that explores the issue of climate change. I had noted Voyager Estates possible connection to this publication and believed your organisation has a right of reply. If I am [under] the misapprehension that Voyager Estate is in no way connected to the IPA publication and not a signatory to the petition, then I will happily correct that. I’d note that I have also contacted the IPA to confirm this facts as well.

Given the very public position that seems to have been taken, as a member of the public I believe Voyager Estate is beholden to clarify the issue.

You may see my initial comments here:

Therefore, I would greatly appreciate if you could clarify my initial questions.

I stress this:  if I am wrong, I’ll happily retract my initial statements and apologise for any errors.

Prominent Australian wine maker is “sceptical of climate change”?

Voyager Estate: say it isn't so?

Last week we received word of the the local denial movements “counter offensive” was starting to gear up. The Institute of Public Affairs distributed an information package to Australian Member’s of Parliament.

We are still trying to determine who, and how many were distributed but on the surface it would appear to be a mass mail out.

Watching the Deniers has received both of copy of “Climate Change: the Facts” and the ancillary materials that accompanied it. Analysis will be forthcoming over future posts. However, something immediately caught me eye.

The inside cover of the book contains one of those “petitions” so beloved by the deniers:

“Over 400 individuals and organisations have supported the publications of Climate Change: The Facts because they want want an honest debate about the facts of climate change…”

It then goes on to list several individual several individuals and organisations. Included in this list is “Voyager Estate P/L”, the well known winery and producer of some of Western Australia’s best wines.

I’ve been to Voyager Estate, have eaten in their magnificent restaurant and currently have several bottles in my personal cellar. I knew the family had connections to mining in Western Australia (WA), but I will be frank. I am shocked to think that there is a link between Voyager Estate and the denial movement.

Here is the background on both the estate and it’s owners from the Voyager Estate website:

Voyager Estate owner, Michael Wright, is a farmer from the world of commerce. His ancestors arrived from Scotland in 1854, settling in Maldon, Victoria, before moving to Western Australia prior to Federation in 1901. With a rich tradition of farming and agriculture in their veins, he is a third generation member of a family business that started with his grandfather in 1900.

Michael’s father, Peter Wright, played a major role in the discovery and promotion of WA’s substantial iron ore industry and was, along with Lang Hancock, a founding member of the Hancock & Wright group. As a result, the family was best known for its mining involvement, however, it also continued its agricultural interests as well as other diverse enterprises including coal & oil, transport, publishing and printing to name a few…

Some more background on Michael Wright:

With such a diverse background, Michael pursued several avenues of business and agriculture before setting his sights on owning a vineyard and winery. On the lookout for the right property, he was delighted when, in 1991, he was given the opportunity to purchase Freycinet Estate, started by viticulturist Peter Gherardi in 1978. It was blessed with just the right soils; red/brown gravelly loam that Michael knew would bear intense, rich-flavoured fruit and deliver stunning wine.

It will also seem Michael Wright is very patriotic:

“Michael had one other requirement for Voyager Estate – an Australian flag on show. But not just any size flag. Voyager Estate has what is believed to be the third largest flagpole in Australia. It was the second tallest, until Parliament House in Canberra disliked the idea of being upstaged by an upstart from the West and extended theirs. They are now second only to the Roundhouse in Fremantle. Michael has, of course, risen above such petty power struggles and is simply proud to share his patriotism with visitors to Voyager Estate…”

Mining interests. A very overt form of patriotism. I think we can draw the appropriate conclusions, and understand why Voyager Estate’s owners would align themselves with a free-market think tank that is highly sceptical of climate change and behind this recent counter offensive.

I emailed Voyager Estate the following:


Dear Sir/Madam,

I was recently forwarded a copy of text from the Institute of Public Affairs titled ” Climate Change: the Facts”. The books insert listed a number of individuals and organisations who want an “honest debate” about the facts around the science of climate change.

I’d note that “Voyage Estate P/L” is listed prominently in this insert.

Can I confirm the following:

  • That organisation listed in the IPA publication is your organisation
  • Is this the “official” position of your organisation on climate change
  • Does Voyager Estate have a view on the science, or is this the position of particular individuals associated with Voyager Estate
  • Does your organisation call for a “honest debate” on climate science

Answer forthcoming one would hope.

They should be given the opportunity to respond, and if I am mistaken I will happily correct the story.

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