More clarity around $376 million kiwifruit claim

The court's order was made after a hearing earlier this month, determining the trial will be to confirm whether a duty of care is owed by the MPI to kiwifruit growers.

The $376 million claim against the government made by the kiwifruit claim group will be heard in the High Court at Wellington after June 1 next year.

New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry was devastated by the allegedly late discovery of the Psa outbreak in 2010, leading to a group of growers suing Biosecurity NZ – now a part of MPI – for negligence.

The kiwifruit claim group says while the date of the trial is later than some of the plaintiffs would have liked, it will be good to get the trial out of the way before the 2017 general election campaign.

The date was set after a hearing earlier this month.

The kiwifruit claimants' statement of claim alleges “the employees, servants and agents of MAF were negligent in carrying out their biosecurity functions and, therefore, breached their duty to kiwifruit growers and post-harvest operators.”

In September last year, Auckland University Law professor Bill Hodge told NBR the group’s statement of claim shows “sufficiently specific” information that points to a specific instance that could have been prevented.

But the Ministry of Primary Industries has stood by the Crown’s defence that it owes no duty of care to protect grower from pests and diseases.  

“There is a statutory immunity  proceedings in regard to actions taken under the Biosecurity Act, which MPI will argue applies to this proceeding,” a court-approved summary of the statement of defence states.

The Kiwifruit Claim chairman John Cameron says lawyers planned to present evidence to the court which it is alleged shows officials negligently approved the importation of pollen, later discovered as Psa-v infected, against the government’s own policies and procedures, as well as the date and time it arrived in New Zealand.

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