Federal Member suggests whiskey and gin trail through her Mayo electorate
Source: The KI Islander, 5 October 2018
Building tourism and export opportunities and cutting government red tape were the key topics on the agenda of a meeting of local craft distillers hosted on Wednesday, October 3 by the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie.
Ms Sharkie will now also write to the SA Tourism Minister David Ridgway about possible government support for a whiskey and gin trail through Mayo.
The meeting was a by-election commitment with Ms Sharkie promising to meet with small-scale distillers to work through the issues facing this growing boutique industry.
"Ten years ago there were no commercial craft distillers in Mayo and now there are more than a dozen that I am aware of and they are all contributing to our region's high-quality reputation for fine food and beverages," Ms Sharkie said.
"But distillers operate in a complex regulatory environment which can hamper growth, particularly if you are a small business just starting out.
"It was great to sit down around the table with eight business representatives and talk collectively and collaboratively about not only the challenges but the fantastic opportunities they are embracing.
"It was also good to catch up with Jon and Sarah Lark from KIS (Kangaroo Island Spirits) when I was on the Island recently to also get their perspective and bring that to the meeting."
Ms Sharkie will also look at setting up an information session for distillers with Austrade, the Federal Government's trade, investment and education promotion agency, to discuss export strategies.
"I am also writing to the Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and investigating policy solutions to streamline the regulatory framework for small-scale distillers, including the way excise is calculated and refunded as well as and the timing of payments," Ms Sharkie said.
"Australians pay more in tax for a standard drink made by a distiller than they do a glass of wine or a pint of beer and far more tax for the same product than other countries around the world.
"It's time to look at how the industry is taxed, particularly for the smaller producer, so they can remain competitive.
"Craft distillers add another reason for tourists to stay longer in our region. They have much to contribute to the small business tourism landscape in Mayo."
According to figures provided by the distillers, there are about 12 commercial operators in Mayo, employing about 30 people directly and hundreds more indirectly.
In the next five years, they hope to more than double that number to 72 employees.
About half of the commercial operations in the region have a distiller door or tasting bards for their products and all of them plan to have a shopfront in the next five years.