Kiwifruit Claim heads to NZ's Supreme Court
A class-action lawsuit by New Zealand kiwifruit growers seeking to hold the Government liable for losses caused by the Psa outbreak is heading to the Supreme Court.
The move comes a month after the Court of Appeal decided to allow the Crown to appeal a High Court decision finding it partially liable over the Psa outbreak which devastated Bay of Plenty orchards and 2010 and 2011.
In June 2018, the High Court partially upheld a claim against the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for failing to prevent the devastating disease from entering the country.
The claim was brought by Strathboss Kiwifruit Limited, which represented a class of 212 kiwifruit orchardists and Te Puke-based post-harvest operator Seeka.
John Cameron, Kiwifruit Claim chairman, believes they have a strong case for appealing the Court of Appeal decision which found that even though the Government was in fact responsible for PSA coming into New Zealand, it's not liable for the kiwifruit losses.
“In 2018, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in a media interview ‘I think we have to front up when the Government gets thing wrong’,” he said.
“There is absolutely no doubt the Government got it wrong and was responsible for the devastation of the kiwifruit industry when they allowed PSA into New Zealand. Both the High Court and Court of Appeal have confirmed this, yet the Government continue to fail to front up and take responsibility.”
Cameron adds “The bottom line is the Court of Appeal decision contravenes the right of every New Zealander under the Bill of Rights Act 1990 to hold the Government to account for negligence in the same way as if it were a private company or individual.
“We’re challenging the Court of Appeal’s decision that the Government is exempt from liability under the Crown Proceedings Act because they get to take advantage of immunities for employees under the Biosecurity Act,” said Cameron.
“The Court of Appeal followed an outdated Supreme Court case which we believe is plainly wrong and fails to address our entitlement under the Bill of Rights.”
“The Government knew PSA existed, they knew the damage it could cause if it was let into the country and they breached their own protocols in place to keep it out. We pay significant biosecurity fees and levies to the Government and, in return expect the Government to perform their biosecurity role with reasonable care and skill.
“In this case, the Government stuffed up big time and they need to take responsibility and compensate the kiwifruit growers for the losses the Government has caused,” said Cameron.