Winery owned by millionaire National MP Alastair Scott claimed more than $170,000 in wage subsidy

 Alastair Scott.
Alastair Scott. Photo credit: Facebook

A millionaire winery owner has defended his company's $170,000 wage subsidy claim.

Matahiwi Winery - owned by National MP Alastair Scott - received $171,451 in subsidies for its 26 employees, according to the Ministry of Social Development's (MSD) website.

But Scott told Stuff despite a bumper vintage for wines this year his company was eligible to receive the subsidy as earnings were down 30 percent during the first part of the year.

He said exports and sales to restaurants were affected by COVID-19 and despite his own financial position his company still had the right to the wage subsidy.

"It is a subsidy directed to qualifying businesses only, large or small, to support them to support employees. The quality of the balance sheet is not a qualifying factor," he told Stuff.

Scott is a former investment banker who worked at Credit Suisse before moving into politics.

He is currently National's MP for Wairarapa, though earlier this month announced he would not be standing for reelection in this year's general election. 

Vineyards were deemed an essential service during the nationwide lockdown. And though workers had to adapt in order to keep working, winemakers have said this year's vintage could be the best in decades.

Wineries selling primarily to the hospitality industry had seen a drop in sales, but demand remained strong in supermarkets and online during the lockdown.

A number of successful businesses have been criticised for accepting the wage subsidy, including farmers and law firms, with some eventually paying the money back after public pressure.