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NZ: Kiwifruit Claim evidence nears end

The defence has had a minor setback in the Kiwifruit Claim proceedings in the New Zealand High Court in Wellington.

Crown witness, David Yard was recalled to answer questions about a 2013 document where the Ministry of Primary Industries recorded a concern about improved testing processes. The MPI had sought to claim privilege over this document but Judge Jillian Mallon ultimately agreed that the plaintiffs could introduce it into evidence. Last week, the Court ruled against the Crown that it had to release details of the MPI's liability insurance cover relating to this case.

Photo: Vines from first plaintiff, Strathboss Kiwifruit Ltd

It is the final full week of evidence before closing arguments in the case involving 212 claimants who are seeking accountability and compensation from the Government and MPI 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 available at the time.

The court heard from two experts on statistics including Dr James Curran who is a Professor of Statistics at University of Auckland. He provided evidence on behalf of the plaintiffs. His scope was the statistically probable date at which Psa first began reproducing in New Zealand, based on the rate of genetic mutation over time.

While for the defence, David Bryant gave comment on the robustness of methodology used by Dr Curran, as a Professor of Mathematics, University of Otago. He disagrees with the methods of analysis used by Professor Curran to analyse the genetic data, saying they are inappropriate and his evidence should be rejected.

The DNA topic also carried over from last week, with Joel Vanneste appearing for the defence as Senior Scientist at the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Limited, giving evidence regarding his involvement and research into both the Italian and New Zealand Psa outbreaks, and the response. He also gave expert opinion on the evolution of knowledge and scientific publications about Psa over time, as well as taxonomy of Psa, including the evolution of knowledge of different biovars (strains). He also scrutinised the plaintiffs’ possible pathways of infection and Psa transmission in pollen.

Closing arguments are scheduled to start Tuesday.

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