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NZ: Kiwifruit Claim case hears from biosecurity officials
The government manager, tasked with the initial response to the Psa outbreak in New Zealand in 2010, has given evidence at the Kiwifruit Claim hearings at the High Court in Wellington.
In week eight of proceedings, the defence are midway through presenting their case, which has featured testimony from David Yard. He outlined the Ministry of Primary Industry's biosecurity response function including the scale of the task, funding and biosecurity compensation and other assistance; as well as the Psa response, trade reactions during the Psa response and the Psa pathway tracing report. He handed over to Kiwifruit Vine Health in early 2011.
212 claimants have joined together to bring proceedings against the MPI, claiming for over NZ$376m of losses suffered in the outbreak, saying that by not imposing strict requirements for the importation of the pollen, and not inspecting the consignment at the border, the MPI was negligent in its actions. But the defence have refuted those claims, arguing that the response was appropriate to the information known at the time.
The Crown has also called David Hodges who gave evidence about a consignment imported by Kiwi Pollen, which he gave biosecurity clearance. He talked through the process at Auckland Air Cargo, including the placement of Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Hold stamps on consignments thought to be a biosecurity risk, processing a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC), making a decision to physically inspect, and how his training covered this in terms of what he was trained to do and inspecting frozen products. He was also quizzed over his brief of evidence, which states that he can see discrepancies between the phytosanitary certificate and import permit.
Giselle Edel-Singh also took the stand. She worked at the Auckland Biosecurity Centre when an electronic application for biosecurity clearance arrived, and provided details to the court on the process followed with the specific consignment – which were based on records because she stated that she can’t remember dealing with the consignment.
Other expert witnesses included Steve Gilbert who is the Director of Border Clearance Services for MPI, who gave an overview of Border clearance services in 2009 and the scale of the border clearance task. He also gave information on the biosecurity system border, MPI’s approach to managing risk at the border and Non-compliance. While Barry O’Neill, the current CEO of KVH, and former head of Biosecurity NZ, presented evidence regarding the agency and how it managed risk - as well as the establishment of KVH.
Dr Shiroma Sathyapala works in Rome, but her evidence related to when she worked in the MPI risk assessment team in a number of positions from June 2003 to April 2014. Her evidence was given via videolink, and covered the team's contribution to the Card/PHEL report and the decision to issue import permits to Kiwi Pollen.
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