Former Government Servant wins Business Award - 100 years later

17 September 2002

One of New Zealand's early public servants and a trailblazing viticulturist of his time, has been honoured by induction into the National Business Review's Business Hall of Fame.

Romeo Bragato, who was trained in the science of viticulture in Italy and brought to New Zealand by the then-Government in order to help establish a wine industry, is being officially added to the roll of honour on Wednesday.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policy Adviser, Mark Neeson says the move by the National Business Review and the wine industry to acknowledge one of our pioneering government servants in business awards nearly a century after his death is welcomed.

He says Bragato's appointment was an innovative move by the government at the time to attempt to widen the base of New Zealand's primary sector. It also demonstrates how critical government support of the then-embryonic wine industry was at the time.

A century later MAF is once again working with the industry. The present focus is on the review of wine related legislation to help maintain the excellent reputation New Zealand wine has internationally.

Today, more than 89-million litres of wine is produced in New Zealand with 23 million litres of that exported. It is forecast that the wine industry will be worth $336-million in export earnings in 2005.

While Bragato was largely overlooked in his lifetime, it's now acknowledged that much of his work was groundbreaking.

He visited New Zealand twice, firstly in 1895 from Victoria, Australia where he had been investigating the outbreak of phylloxera, which had decimated the wine industry there. He identified a scientific approach to grafting grapevines with phylloxera resistant rootstock. This is regarded as one of his greatest contributions to the wine industry in this country.

Bragato returned to New Zealand in 1902 to take up the position of chief viticulturist with the Department of Agriculture. He promoted the industry with energy and enthusiasm, produced vintages of good quality as well as setting up the experimental station at Te Kauwhata.

However he resigned in 1909 in despair at the lack of adequate government funding and support.

Interestingly Bragato highlighted Central Otago, the Christchurch hinterland, the Moutere hills near Nelson, the Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay and pockets of North Auckland and the Waikato as best suited for grape production. He was never shown Marlborough so makes no mention of its potential.

For more information contact:

Mark Neeson, tel (04) 498 9832 (w)

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