Shot in the arm

Losing their cool
Government scuttles iceberg water-use fee after it ruffles feathers among impacted small businesses

Danny Bath was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.

So when the Newfoundland and Labrador government introduced a $5,000 annual fee for businesses that use iceberg water in October of 2016, the general manager and part owner of the Auk Island Winery in Twillingate fought the increase. In May, he learned his efforts had paid off. The government agreed to eliminate the annual fee for businesses if they use less than 5,000 cubic metres of iceberg water. “Maybe $5,000 isn’t everything to a business, but I thought it was a little bit much,” Bath says.

The issue is unique to Newfoundland and Labrador. Every year thousands of icebergs break off from glaciers in Greenland and then they drift south through ‘Iceberg Alley’, an ocean corridor that runs from Greenland to the northeast coast of the island of Newfoundland. Over the years, a small group of businesses have tried to profit from these icebergs by either harvesting them or making products from the water, which is prized for its purity.

Auk Island is one of these businesses. It uses the water to produce a line of iceberg wines. However, if the annual fee had remained in place, Bath vowed to stop making iceberg wine. He says it would have also negatively impacted other small businesses that use the water. The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment says it decided to reverse course on charging the annual water use fee to support small businesses that may have been negatively impacted by the increase.

Bath is pleased that it did. He says it also opens up opportunities to increase production and explore new markets for his iceberg wines. “We currently produce 1,200 cases of iceberg wine. We’d like to get that to 30,000-40,000 cases a year,” he says. “Because of this change we’ll be pursuing those export opportunities.”

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