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NZ: Kiwifruit Claim hearing set to enter a new stage

The plaintiffs in the Kiwifruit Claim are close to wrapping up their evidence, in New Zealand's High Court in Wellington.

The case was brought about following the outbreak of the disease PSA-V in November 2010 which spread throughout the industry. 212 claimants are seeking accountability and compensation from the Ministry of Primary Industries for over NZ$376m of losses suffered in the incident. 

Kerry Everett is currently on the stand, and is expected to finish giving evidence on Monday. She is a scientist at Plant and Food, who also worked with Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries to carry our research on PSA prior to the NZ incursion.

Photo: One of the plaintiffs, Strathboss' orchard taken earlier this year.

The court also heard from other expert witnesses, including Sam Beckett who is an epidemiologist based in Australia, with particular expertise in biosecurity and import risk analysis. He presented evidence is about the characteristics of PSA and conclusions by Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries regarding the Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (PHEL) review.

Fraser Colegrave was another of the plaintiff witnesses. He is the managing director of Insight Economics Limited, and was called to the stand to describe the importance of border protection in NZ, to explain its specific importance to the kiwifruit industry; and to compare the relative costs and benefits of preventing incursions at the border, rather than responding to them upon detection.

Continuing on from last week, more people working for the MPI, around the time permits were issued to Kiwi Pollen to import pollen from China, were questioned. Tamsin Hains was involved in authorising an earlier permit to Kiwi Pollen with the wording and also provided feedback on the PHEL review. Chris Baring was involved in issuing the first import permit to Kiwi Pollen and corresponded with Kiwi Pollen regarding vacuum-collecting pollen and the risk of contamination by bacteria and fungi. 

Kiwifruit Claim spokesperson John Cameron says he is pleased with the evidence that his legal team has presented in the case so far.

“We believe the facts firmly show that MPI never properly assessed the risks around PSA entering New Zealand from pollen and it failed to carry out its duties to check that the import matched the issued import permit," he said. "Growers’ lives and livelihoods were ripped apart by PSA, and for many the impact is ongoing.”

The Crown is expected to present its opening address to the court early next week.

“The next stage of the 12 week trial is for the Crown to present its evidence – giving our legal team the opportunity to cross examine the Crown’s witnesses," Mr Cameron said. "MPI denies all the claims being made, but we believe our evidence strongly shows that a duty of care is owed and the negligence is obvious.”

Publication date: 9/1/2017
Author: Matthew Russell
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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