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Ministry of Fisheries Happy with Scampi Finding

Media Release 20 December 2006

Ministry of Fisheries Satisfied with Scampi Finding

The Ministry of Fisheries is satisfied with the judgment on an action taken by Scampi fishers and delivered by the High Court yesterday.

The action, which relates to events that took place in the early 1990s, by Scampi fishers Trevor Goodship/ Pranfield Holdings Ltd and United Fisheries, involved claims that the then Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had acted to exclude them from the Scampi fishery. The plaintiffs claimed that a breach of statutory duty, negligence and misfeasance in public office had taken place.

The Court found in favour of MAF’s prior decisions on scampi and no damages were awarded to United. However the Court found that a declaration by the Court of Appeal in an earlier phase of the litigation was binding and must be given effect to. Therefore a remedy in damages was awarded to Goodship/Pranfield Holdings Limited of $2.9 million. In both cases, the claims of misfeasance were found to be unsubstantiated.

“The fact that no evidence of misfeasance was found by the judge is an excellent outcome for the Ministry,” says John Glaister, Chief Executive.

“We contended in this case and in two previous inquiries into the Scampi fishery that the behaviour of public officials had been above reproach and as in those inquiries, the integrity of our staff was once again confirmed.

“Justice McKenzie himself notes that the changes in New Zealand’s system of management for commercial fisheries were among the most far-reaching of the reforms which transformed the New Zealand economy and the approach to economic management from the mid 1980s.

“We have previously acknowledged that there were some inconsistencies in the administration of permitting during that time, but these have to be seen as minor in the context of the enormous benefits to our fishery that these changes introduced. The then Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries created the basis for the sustainable fishery which we enjoy today.

“Since that time these administrative inconsistencies have been systematically addressed and removed. The Quota Management System works well and these cases related to it largely date back to the early formative period when it was being introduced.

“What is important to us is that every suggestion of negligence, dishonesty or corruption on the part of officials of that Ministry has failed due to a complete lack of evidence. The public can have confidence now as they could then in the integrity of their officials,” says Dr Glaister.

The particular points of concern about process have been assessed by the court which has awarded very modest damages compared with the level of the claims.

The parties have until early February to decide whether to appeal the decision.

Ends


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