April 8, 2021
In February of this year, the Government agreed to pay NZ$40m to settle a claim by 212 kiwifruit orchardists and post-harvest operator, Seeka Ltd, for loss caused by the incursion of the Psa3 bacteria into New Zealand in 2010. Psa3 devastated kiwifruit crops and threatened the survival of the industry. In their claim the orchardists and Seeka alleged Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries personnel were negligent in executing their responsibilities at the border and this led to the Psa3 incursion. They claimed NZ$450m in damages.
The orchardists and Seeka were successful in the High Court in 2018 but the Court of Appeal overturned the decision in 2020 finding that, although MAF personnel had been negligent, they did not owe the claimants a duty of care and, in any event, the Crown Proceedings Act 1950 protected the Government from liability. The orchardists and Seeka successfully sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, however the claim was settled shortly before the hearing.
Shortland Chambers member Alan Galbraith QC acted for the orchardists and Seeka in the Court of Appeal and on appeal to the Supreme Court, and member Jack Hodder QC acted for the Attorney-General in the High Court, Court of Appeal and on appeal to the Supreme Court. Member Greg Blanchard QC also advised a major orchardist in relation to the settlement.
Links to news reporting of this case: