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Crown says it owes no duty of care to kiwifruit growers

Crown says it owes no duty of care to kiwifruit growers for PSA

A spokesman for The Kiwifruit Claim, Matthew Hooton, today slammed the government for saying its border officials do not owe kiwifruit growers a duty of care to protect their industry from pests and diseases.

Mr Hooton was commenting on the devastating news of a Psa-v outbreak in Northland, which may be linked to government officials’ alleged negligence when they approved an importation of infected plant material to New Zealand in June 2009. The news comes just two weeks before the deadline imposed by the High Court in Wellington for growers and post-harvest operators to pay a one-off fee to become part of the claim.

The Kiwifruit Claim argues that the alleged negligence by border officials directly caused the ongoing devastation of the kiwifruit industry, which has cost New Zealand at least $885 million according to the government’s own independent study.

In response, the government has denied it owes the duty of care to kiwifruit growers alleged by the claim.

“It is unbelievable that the government is trying to wash its hands of any responsibility for its officials to act carefully when protecting our country from Psa-v, foot and mouth disease or any of the other pests and diseases that could devastate this country’s farms, orchards and conservation estate,” Mr Hooton said.

“The Kiwifruit Claim is seeking just compensation for growers’ losses caused by Psa-v but it is also motivated by the need to hold government officials accountability to try to stop avoidable outbreaks of pests and diseases from happening again.”

To join the claim, growers need only to pay a one-off initial payment of $500, $1000 or $1500 depending on orchard size. Only growers who are part of the claim can share in any compensation. Should the claim be unsuccessful, growers can face no liability for costs, with the litigation funder already having posted $250,000 security with the High Court.

Growers and post-harvest operators can obtain information on the claim from www.thekiwifruitclaim.org. They should obtain independent legal advice before signing up to the claim. The legal team for the claim is Alan Galbraith QC, Matthew Dunning QC and LeeSalmonLong. Parker and Associates successfully managed the first phase of the claim, which led to the High Court at Wellington approving the class action, the litigation funder and all the associated claim documents.

“We say all farmers, all horticulturists and all New Zealanders concerned about our natural flora and fauna have a right to expect that biosecurity officials will act with care when protecting out country from pests and diseases,” Mr Hooton said. “This litigation will determine whether that is so, or if biosecurity officials are allowed to act carelessly when protecting our country’s borders.”

ENDS

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