Hunter winemaker adapts

HE wishes it was not necessary, but Upper Hunter wine producer Brett Keeping plans to develop part of his holdings near Denman for housing.

A former president of the Upper Hunter Wine Makers' Association and a long-time advocate for the industry, Mr Keeping said he had to continue to adapt to change.

"No one would have predicted how much things have changed up here," Mr Keeping said.

The plan is to rezone a separate, 42-hectare parcel of land held in the name of Waebron Pty Ltd, from rural use to large-lot residential.

A report on the proposal was put to Muswellbrook Shire Council on Monday night.

Mr Keeping said his well-known Two Rivers cellar door and vineyard would not be affected by the plan and, if the proposal was realised, the wine business would benefit.

The land was bought as a "buffer" between Two Rivers and Denman, he said.

It has no vines on it.

Mr Keeping said there were plans to build a commercial winery and tourist accommodation on the site.

The upheaval in the industry, with the merger of Rosemount and South Corp and the end of winemaking at the Rosemount plant at Denman, were events that demanded a quick change in plans, he said.

Two Rivers sent its grapes to contract winemakers First Creek in the Lower Hunter and the tourist plan did not proceed, Mr Keeping said.

"The development approval for the tourist facility still stands.

"This is another direction, it is exciting and makes us more diversified. It's life. We are still committed [to Two Rivers] here," Mr Keeping said.

The council report which was prepared on Mr Keeping's behalf noted the proposal would provide a residential choice for future workers and growth associated with coal mining expansion.

The council has been advised by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure it will have to complete its own policy on rural lifestyle land before the housing proposal proceeds.

Large areas of Upper Hunter vineyards have disappeared because of mining and industry downturn.

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