Little to personally cover all his defamation case legal fees

Mr Little says he wants to take "personal responsibility.”

Labour party leader Andrew Little says he will cover all costs that arise from his defamation case with the Scenic Hotel Group founders.

Mr Little says he has a “personal view about taking personal responsibility.”

The Labour leader is defending a defamation action at the High Court in Wellington this week brought by Scenic’s founders, and NBR Rich Listers, Earl Hagaman and his wife Lani.

In April last year, the Hagamans made a $101,000 donation to the National Party. A month later, Scenic won a tender to manage the Matavai resort in Niue, which receives funding from the New Zealand government.

Mr Little is being sued for public statements he made, including saying the donation and the subsequent contract award “stunk to high heaven,” along with five other comments he made to media outlets.

At the time, the Hagamans gave Mr Little a deadline to retract his comments and apologise but he refused, saying it was part of his role to hold the government to account.

Mr Little apologised for the comments last week but it was deemed too little, too late by Mrs Hagaman.

The Hagamans are seeking a maximum of $2.3 million in damages.

This morning, he told media although he did not want to get into much detail about the proceedings, he would be meeting his own costs.

“The offers I made to settle, had they been accepted, would have been fully funded by me, personally.”

He says neither Parliamentary services nor the Labour Party – through the leader’s budget – will be putting any money towards his legal fees.

“If you are found to have done something wrong, it’s about taking personal responsibility for it.”

He declined to say how much of a financial impact the maximum $2.3 million in damages would have on him.

“I’m not going to comment on the merits of the case or anything that might reflect on the merits of the case, so it’s hard for me to answer that.”

He says after the proceedings are finished would be the best time to talk about whether the incident will mean he will pull his punches in the future.

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