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Nick Smith Settles Defamation Action

29 September 2004

Nick Smith Settles Defamation Action

Patently false and defamatory allegations made by Nelson MP Nick Smith during his fronting of the National Party’s 2001 “Fixing the RMA” campaign, have cost him sorely in a compensation payout after an out of Court settlement was reached recently.

West Coast conservationist Bruce Stuart-Menteath began proceedings against Smith when he refused to retract or apologise for stating in the media, and at public meetings throughout the country, that Stuart-Menteath’s 1998 Environment Court appeal concerning a hotel proposal at Punakaiki, was vexatious and an abuse of process.

Smith further degraded Stuart-Menteath’s private and professional character by making a number of offensive allegations, such as that he was “pathologically” opposed to tourism – when in fact he and his partner were eco tour operators who had won national and international awards for the excellence of their operation, Paparoa Nature Tours – and that he was a “dope smoking unemployed local”. Stuart-Menteath was never named, but his identity was obvious given that he was the only appellant in the matter.

When Stuart-Menteath challenged him at a “Fixing the RMA” meeting in Christchurch, Smith not only refused to retract, but harshly chastised him for pursuing his appeal and later sought to strike out his claim. However, it subsequently became apparent that despite his failure to reveal the basis of his allegations, Smith’s only sources were the opinions of the disgruntled developer and his own imagination. “I gave up trying to get a public apology, and that will remain a blot on Smith’s integrity.” Instead, Stuart-Menteath has responded by describing the saga in his recent book, A Hostile Environment – A Case Study of the Harassment of Environmentalists on the West Coast of NZ. “Mr Smith’s unsavoury conduct provided a classic example of a politician using non-physical forms of violence, including his attempts at avoiding being held accountable for them, as a means of achieving his ideological ends.

He would do well to read my book in order to realise that such conduct is also a precursor to physical violence when it stirs up anti-environmentalist sentiments amongst impressionable members of the public who are prepared to act on them.” A preview of A Hostile Environment can be viewed at http://users.snap.net.nz/~b.menteath.


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