Over a glass or two of red, I wryly considered how the NSW Office of Water (NOW) markets and sells what is the state’s most abundant renewable resource – water — and tried to relate its strategy to the marketing and selling of that which I was drinking. The object was determine if the agency’s policies are feasible and rational.
I mused that because the irrigators of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) are NOW’s biggest customers, and wine producers are both well-known water users in that area and large producers of this sought-after end product, it could be a fruitful exercise to contemplate how NOW would sell wine.
Given its track record we can assume that if NOW took over marketing MIA Wines (the Company), the first thing the CEO, Sir Humphrey Appleby on Green Steroids, would do is call a press conference and announce that all customers had been buying too much wine, that they were over imbibing and, in many cases, were irresponsible alcoholics.
This would be followed by a letter to all customers and coupled with a press release, each authorised by Sir Humphrey, advising that the Company would be cutting back on supply via the adoption of wine-sharing plans for all sales regions. These wine-sharing plans would be computer modelled and based on years when the Company had very low production. As a result, customers would be advised of the need to “get high with less.”
This correspondence would stress that the Company had scientific advice that, because customers were buying too much wine, this was adversely affecting “The Environment.” Of course there would be no attempt to define what “The Environment” is, what the adverse effects were, or even if there are any real problems that nature wouldn’t correct in good time.
It would be claimed that this scientific advice demanded that a priority proportion of the Company’s carefully stored wine production had to be flushed into the river system every year to supposedly ensure a procreative explosion of aquatic life and that river red gums would become so permanently happy they would become known as “giggling gums.”
Sir Humphrey would reasonably confirm that the Company would, as a first priority, meet its share of obligations to the South Australian wholesalers to receive 1,850,000 bottles of wine per year.
But NSW drinkers (the Company’s paying customers) would be advised that henceforth all customers will be licensed and have their purchase of MIA Wines stringently capped.
These licenses would be in two basic categories:
1) High Need Licenses (HNL’s), which will be fortified and cost more but have a preference in supply. HNL customers will pay a much higher bottle price because there is a greater likelihood that these bottles will have wine in them, but no guarantee is given or implied.
2) General Need Licenses (GNL’s), which will cover most customers but have lower security of supply. Under the new guidelines customers can expect that some of these bottles will have no wine in them and that, even when they do, they may not be available as and when drinkers wish to imbibe.
Every license will have yearly quotas of bottles that can be purchased, which cannot be exceeded.
However because the company has yearly recurring costs that absolutely must be recovered, even in years when some or all of those bottles have no wine in them, customers will have to pay our base charge of fifteen dollars per bottle. This bottle charge will be payable even if the customer decides not to ultimately purchase their full number of bottles. Sir Humphrey would explain this as reasonable, oblivious to the fact that if any other organisation tried such wholesaling or retailing tactics it would be dragged to the courts by ASIC.
In a tone of sombre importance, Sir Humphrey would explain that because the company has recognised its obligation at all costs to keep “The Environment” happy (and the caring wider community smiling), the Company will be withholding a percentage of all customer license entitlements to ensure this ideal can be met.
This is how the Company will achieve these noble goals: Let us assume that a HNL holder has an allotment of 100 bottles per year and that a GNL holder has an allotment of 500 bottles per year: The HNL will permanently forfeit to the company 5% of his entitlement for the environment and the caring wider community — that amounts to 5 full bottles per year.
The GNL holder will permanently forfeit to the company 15% of his entitlements for the environment and the caring wider community, which will amount to 75 full bottles per year. This forfeited wine will be ear-marked as Murray Merlot for the rivers, Gums Gamay for the flora and Critters Chardonnay for the fauna.
Paying customers will need to adjust their thinking to appreciate that there is a higher-level use for our wine, and because these higher-level users cannot pay us for that wine, customers need to become accustomed to paying for the bottles even if there is no wine in them. Very technical and complicated computer models based on these new ideals will demonstrate that this benefits customers and the greater good.
Paying customers will need to now accept that the Murray Merlot, Gums Gamay and Critters Chardonnay will have first priority in our production, storage and delivery and, as a result, it may be that at the commencement of each drinking season (1st July each year.) the company cannot guarantee to deliver bottles with wine in them.
Therefore, on or about July 15 each year and each month thereafter, the Company will announce the likely number of full bottles for that drinking year. When customers do take delivery of wine, it must be paid for as an addition to the statutory charge of $15 per bottle and this purchase price will be solely at the company’s discretion.
Some GNL customers who do not drink or sell their full wine allotment in any drinking year will be allowed to carry a small proportion (not to exceed 30%) of their the non-purchased wine forward to the next drinking year.
HNL customers may as well just get sloshed on what they have, as the Company will not allow any storage of unconsumed wine for subsequent years from these customers, except in exceptional circumstances at the Company’s absolute discretion. The non-purchased volume of wine will be accounted for and added to the environmental wine in our storages before we decide on allocations for the new drinking year.
However, regardless of how much wine a GNL licensee carries forward he will not be able to purchase above 110% of his license entitlement in any one drinking year, regardless of how much wine we have. These paying customers have been drinking too much for years and we intend to stop this and create wine gardens deep in the glades of Giggling Gums for orgiastic fauna including plastered platypuses, pie-eyed pelicans, fuddled frogs, blotto bull birds, drunken ducks, inebriated Ibis, tipsy tadpoles, smashed shags, legless leaches, cock-eyed cormorants, yabbering yabbies, sozzled shrimps and bacchanal bald-coots.
This is the prime purpose of our wine sharing plans, Sir Humphrey would stress.
Because the Company is constantly upgrading our delivery systems and is determined to provide more efficient wine consumption, we have recently upgraded from corked bottles to screw tops.
This extra cost we intend to pass on to our paying customers in the form of metering charge, otherwise called a “screw you” charge.
This charge will be levied on every bottle and is payable whether the bottles are bought or not and even if there is no wine in the bottles.
Customers should be delighted to know that their drinking licenses will be tradeable and can be sold for real money. This is a huge advantage, as there is no other supplier in the market and we are a wine-delivery monopoly.
Our friends at the Commonwealth have recently acquired a taste for our product and although they have no constitutional right to be buying, selling or drinking wine, we will allow them to purchase your drinking licenses. When this happens the Company will of course provide storage for this Capital Cabernet until such time as the Commonwealth decides where and when it wants to party.
This Capital Cabernet will be provided free to the Commonwealth whenever it is requested and will always have priority over paying customer requirements.
Storing the Commonwealth wine will of course further diminish the Company’s capacity to meet our paying customer needs.The important goal is that our customers have to learn to “get high with less,” while the Company continues to do less with more.
Customers will adapt to the new marketing rules via the soon-to-be-released Adaptive Management Plans and Localism Plans. We have hundreds of city-based bureaucrats working on these imaginative plans.
In seasons where the company has excess production, this oversupply will not be made available to our paying customers above their license entitlements, instead being bottled as Murray Merlot, Gums Gamay or Critters Chardonnay.
Even when there is a flood of wine there will be no plan to sell extra to our paying customers or to prevent the environment and the wider caring community from drowning or becoming totally and thoroughly inebriated at the expense of our paying customers, concluded Sir Humphrey.
Well that about explains it. I think I need a drink. Damn! This is one of those empty bottles I had to pay for.
Ron Pike is a water consultant and third-generation irrigation farmer.