Infected kiwifruit from China caused Psa outbreak, court told

  • 07/08/2017
Growers say the vine-killing bacteria cost the industry more than $800 million. Photo credit: Getty

The Psa disease outbreak that that cost the kiwifruit industry hundreds of millions of dollars was preventable and started from a single site near Te Puke, a court has been told.

The class action suit by the 212 members of Kiwifruit Claim against the Ministry for Primary Industries got under way in the High Court at Wellington on Monday.

The growers say the vine-killing bacteria, Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae, cost the industry more than $800 million and officials were negligent in allowing it in.

Lawyer Davey Salmon opened by showing the court maps of where Psa disease broke out, at an orchard near Te Puke in 2010.

"This was ground zero," he said. "Orchards in this area are cheek by jowl, but we are able to identify a single site where the Psa originated."

The orchard and bee pollen operation he singled out was Kiwi Pollen, owned by Jill Hamlyn and Graeme Crawshaw, he said, who got a Psa-infected shipment of pollen from China.

"It was not a difficult task to follow the arrows once the shipment was back in New Zealand."

Mr Salmon said New Zealand's ministries were crucial to protecting growers and natural heritage.

"Any invasion by pests have calamitous results and we are faced with a case where it [protection] went wrong."

Mr Salmon said kiwifruit and wine are New Zealand's top two exports, with the former worth $1.3 billion each year.

MPI denies all the claims, including that it has a duty of care.

The hearing is expected to last for 12 weeks.