Govt to appeal landmark negligence finding in Psa case
By Sophie Boot
July 24 (BusinessDesk) - The Crown will appeal last month's High Court's decision that the government was negligent in allowing Psa, the virus which devastated the kiwifruit industry, into the country.
Psa infected 80 percent of kiwifruit orchards nationwide and is estimated to have cost the industry up to $1 billion in lost exports. The growers' group, called Kiwifruit Claim, sought more than $376 million in compensation. The group of 212 growers, led by Strathboss Kiwifruit and Seeka, claimed the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry - which was merged into the Ministry for Primary Industries in 2012 - was negligent under the Biosecurity Act.
Last month, the court backed Kiwifruit Claim in the first stage of the trial, finding the Crown breached its duty of care to growers. It was the first of two stages, with the initial trial for the plaintiffs to prove the Crown breached its duty of care and establish a loss, and the second stage to determine the level of costs incurred and compensation.
Today, MPI said the appeal "seeks to clarify the scope for government regulators to be sued in negligence".
"The ministry considers the High Court finding has the potential to significantly impact on the ministry's biosecurity operations," MPI said. "MPI takes its biosecurity responsibilities seriously, and while the decision is being appealed, it must still be applied in the interim. The impact of this for importers and others will be delays in decision-making.
"As the matter will go before the Court of Appeal, we will be making no further comment," MPI said.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters earlier this month said the government's liability for Psa could be "between $500-to-$800 million", an assessment Kiwifruit Claim chair John Cameron agreed with.