NZ: Zespri gives further evidence at Kiwifruit claim hearings

Zespri have spoken further about their involvement and response to the 2010 outbreak of Psa on the New Zealand kiwifruit industry, during High Court hearings in Wellington.

Chief Operating Officer Simon Limmer took the stand addressing Zespriís involvement and the knowledge it had of the Italian outbreak. He detailed the companyís response, including research undertaken to learn more about its effects. He was also questioned about Zespriís view of the risk of Psa coming to New Zealand prior to the incursion, along with the introduction of G3 and effect this has had on the industry.

Dr David Tanner, who led the research and development programme at Zespri from 2007 to 2014 also gave evidence on its research into the Italian outbreak. In cross examination, he was questioned on the perception of risk of Psa spreading to New Zealand and Zespriís response once it was confirmed, explaining that it was thought unlikely Psa would spread to the southern hemisphere country as it only thrived in the cold. While Craig Greenlees is the managing director of DMS - a post-harvest operator. He was on the Zespri board between 1999 and 2014, and was chair from 2003 to 2008. His evidence addressed the impact Psa had on DMS and its response to the outbreak.

Earlier in the week former Zespri CEO Lain Jager gave evidence that the industry had more than bounced back after the incursion. Although he did acknowledge that each growerís circumstances were different and it could not be said that the losses suffered due to Psa were generally undone by the recent good performance, on an average basis. 

Photo: Vines at the property of first plaintiffs, Strathboss Kiwifruit Ltd

212 claimants have brought the case to court, seeking accountability and compensation from the Government and Ministry of Primary Industries for over NZ$376m of losses suffered in the incident. The defence have denied these claims, arguing all of their actions were appropriate to knowledge known at the time. 

The defence also called more staff members from MPI, including Heather Pearson who is an incursion investigator at MPI, Heatherís evidence covered her role in the response to Psa and the initial investigations that took place at RP1 & RP2 (the first sites where Psa was detected) as well as the next three confirmed infected properties. She also spoke about potential pathways for the spread of Psa between the orchards, as well as addressing an investigation into Kiwi Pollenís imports and her conversations with Jill Hamlyn and Graeme Crawshaw.

Other witnesses that appeared this week included Rob Taylor. He is a senior scientist in the Mycology and Bacteriology team at MPI. His brief addresses his peer review of the Plant Health and Environment Laboratory Card paper (PHEL), how testing protocols for Psa were developed between 2008 and 2012, and the tests that were undertaken in response to the outbreak.

Tony Hawken, the CEO of EastPack, a large post-harvest operator at the time of the outbreak presented general evidence of the role of post-harvest operators (PHOs) in the industry, and the effect of Psa on the sector.

The hearings have completed week nine, with another three scheduled.

Publication date: 10/6/2017
Author: Matthew Russell

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