NZ: Kiwifruit Claim to go to High Court next year
The 212 claimants are seeking NZ$376.4 million in damages from the government, which they accuse of not doing enough to prevent the entry of the kiwifruit vine disease in 2010.
An initial judgment on the substantive points may not be available until mid-2017, the Kiwifruit Claim group said.
As the deadline to sign up closed last Friday, growers representing 32% of the total gold kiwifruit crop as at 2009-10 and 13% of the green crop were confirmed as having completed the process of signing up to the claim.
"The growers who have signed up to the claim estimate they alone have suffered losses of $376.4 million as a result of the outbreak," spokesperson Matthew Hooton said in a release.
"We expect the Treasury will need to include the claim as a contingent liability in the December Economic and Fiscal Update being prepared now."
The group alleges the government was negligent when it let a 'specific shipment' of anthers from a 'Psa-ravaged part of China' into New Zealand, and that this negligence is what caused the losses to kiwifruit growers in the subsequent Psa-v outbreak.
"The government denies that direct connection. It also denies that its decision to let in the anthers from an infected part of China was negligent and even denies it owes a duty of care to growers in protecting our country from pests and diseases anyway," he said.
"We think the government does have a legal duty of care to growers, as well as its obvious moral and political duty to all New Zealanders to take the utmost care when protecting our country’s agriculture and unique native flora and fauna from foreign pests, and it should be accountable through the courts when it carries out its critical biosecurity role."
The High Court set Oct. 9 as the final date for growers to join the claim, after having confirmed the claim met all of the requirements to proceed as a class action, and approved the litigation funder and funding arrangements.