The Kiwifruit Claim group has filed a cross-appeal over the High Court decision which found the Ministry for Primary Industries negligent in letting vine-killing disease Psa-V into New Zealand in 2009, which devastated the kiwifruit industry.
This comes just after the Crown recently appealed the High Court decision that found MPI negligent.
The High Court decision, released on June 29, partially upheld a claim by the Kiwifruit Claim group of 212 growers for damages over the Psa outbreak in 2010 – but did not uphold the claim by the group’s second plaintiff Seeka, saying post-harvest operators were one step removed from the direct harm suffered by growers so were less closely connected to the consequences of ministry negligence.
Now, the Crown, on behalf of MPI, and the Kiwifruit Claim group – which represents the 212 growers as well as Seeka – will have to wait until later this year or early-2019 when the Court of Appeal will hear both the Crown’s appeal and the Kiwifruit Claim group’s cross appeal at the same time.
In a statement, dated July 24, 2018, MPI says: “The Crown appeal seeks to clarify the scope for government regulators to be sued in negligence”.
MPI also adds it considers the High Court finding “has the potential to significantly impact on the Ministry’s biosecurity operations”.
Now Kiwifruit Claim group chairman John Cameron is calling on the Government to accept the comprehensive High Court decision which found MPI was responsible for the Psa outbreak, saying
that growers have been left with no choice but to cross-appeal after the Crown decided to appeal following its loss.
“We were gutted with the Government’s move to appeal, it was devastating to growers.
“We are confident in the High Court’s decision, and believe the Government is taking a massive risk in appealing the Judge’s clear findings.
“Enough is enough – it’s time for MPI to accept full responsibility. The Psa incursion caused significant losses to many growers and others and could easily have been avoided if MPI had done their job properly.”
John says his group’s cross-appeal challenges the decision that the Government did not owe a duty of care to Seeka as a post-harvest operator.
“Seeka suffered massive financial losses during the Psa outbreak, and if we are successful liability will escalate considerably,” says John.
“It will also confirm that MPI was negligent when they failed to inspect the shipment of banned kiwifruit plant material, infected with Psa, when it arrived from China.
“MPI told the court that inspection was required under the Biosecurity Act and under their own regulations, and admitted that they failed to inspect the package.”
John says his group is unaware of any other instance where MPI has admitted to being responsible for a biosecurity outbreak when they had the opportunity to prevent its entry.
“Psa was a known pest and MPI had regulations and protocols in place to ensure it didn’t come into the country.
“It was proven and admitted by MPI in court, that they had failed to follow their own rules and performed multiple acts of negligence which meant Psa was allowed to be brought into the country.”
John says if MPI had been careful and followed their regulations, like the Australian biosecurity agency did, Psa would not have entered NZ.
“This is not a case of expecting the biosecurity system to prevent every pest incursion from happening, this is a case of where MPI’s actions let a known pest into the country.
“They could have stopped it and did not.”
John says growers were in tears when the High Court decision came out. “We’ve had to fight a long and expensive battle to finally get some accountability for what happened.
“These growers are not getting any younger, and since the claim was filed in 2014, at least three claimants have died. However, it is our understanding the estates of these claimants will still be pursuing their claim.”
And the group remains committed to fighting the Government and MPI for growers to be properly compensated for the losses MPI has caused, says John.
“The Government has declined two offers that were made by the Kiwifruit Claim to settle, which would have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and allowed everyone to move on.”