The kiwifruit industry group behind contentious legal action against the New Zealand Government, dubbed the Kiwi Claim, is confident their case will not result in any counter action.
The group officially filed a class action lawsuit with New Zealand’s High Court in Wellington late last week, alleging that Biosecurity New Zealand, a division of the Ministry of Primary Industries, was negligent in allowing the Psa disease to enter New Zealand in 2010.
The legal action was set to be launchedin October, however, the group postponed the lodgement of documents amid claims of intimidation from single-desk marketer Zespri and other representative bodies.
Claim spokesperson Matthew Hooton told Radio New Zealand that the group had received assurances from government ministers that the participating growers and post harvest operators would not face damage claims should the case be dismissed.
“We've kept in informal and formal contact with Government ministers and it's been made absolutely clear that the Government will not be linking this litigation to any other issues within the industry," Hooton explained. "The Government's very supportive of the export monopoly. The Government supports the industry with research and development, and of course kiwifruit was the big winner from the recent free trade agreement with South Korea.”
The group alleges the Psa outbreak has cost the industry NZ$885m (US$690m) to date. It claims to have the support of 18 per cent of he country’s gold kiwifruit growers, and less than 10 per cent of green growers.
Neil Trebilco, president of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers, has expressed his dissatisfaction with the legal action, suggesting it could destabilise the relationship between the industry and the MPI.
“I guess it was inevitable that the legal action would go ahead but I am very disappointed that it has,” Trebilco told Sun Media. “I don't think this action is in the best interests of growers and would strongly advise anyone considering joining to think very carefully and get legal advice before doing so.”