Crown opens case in kiwifruit claim over Psa virus outbreak

  • 04/09/2017
Psa virus
The virus is estimated to have cost the industry up to $930 million in lost exports. Photo credit: File

The Crown is planning for a multi-pronged approach as it seeks to defend a class action lawsuit from 212 kiwifruit growers over the Psa virus outbreak seven years ago which devastated the industry.

Crown lawyer, Jack Hodder QC, says legislation, the law, and science are among the angles he and his team plan to tackle.

Witnesses over the next week include Murray Sherwin, director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture and Industry (MAF) from 2001-2010 and Lain Jager, chief executive of kiwifruit marketer and exporter Zespri.

The lawsuit, led by Strathboss Kiwifruit and Seeka, is claiming that MAF - which was later merged into the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) - was negligent under the Biosecurity Act in letting the vine-killing Psa virus into New Zealand from China.

It infected 80 percent of the country's orchards and is estimated to have cost the industry up to $930 million in lost exports.

But Mr Hodder says the plaintiffs' case falls over in a number of areas.

"The Crown will say they are misconceived in law and there is no breach of duty here," he said.

"We have much more public responsibility than a private law claim saying 'what about me' that cannot be part of the legal landscape."

Mr Hodder said his team will assert that no specific individual from MPI is in breach of the duty of care and there is no concrete evidence to prove the Psa outbreak came from the identified consignment from Shaanxi in China.

The trial is expected to run another four weeks.