Kiwifruit growers hope High Court ruling is a wakeup call for MPI

The Government is facing a half billion dollar claim for compensation from kiwifruit growers devastated by the vine-killing disease PSA.

It comes after the High Court ruled the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was at least partly to blame for letting the disease into the country.

Growers like Don Highland are hopeful the ruling will be a wakeup call for MPI. As a result of the outbreak he lost his orchard, millions of dollars, and even his legs.

He now has two artificial legs and he told Newshub a specialist informed him the stress he was under probably hastened losing his legs.

"We can't have people destroyed by something that's come through our border. It's not just cows or kiwifruit it could be pears, pumpkins," Mr Highland said.

He was one of over 200 other kiwifruit growers who faced huge losses due to the PSA outbreak.

The High Court has ruled that MPI failed to take reasonable care when allowing pollen from China into New Zealand in 2009. The following year the industry was fighting to survive as the disease spread.

Justice Mallon said MPI relied on inaccurate tests and when the pollen reached New Zealand was probably not inspected and was "more likely than not the consignment that contained PSA and that ultimately caused the outbreak in New Zealand."

Growers are seeking compensation for their losses, and are glad there is finally some accountability.

The Crown has 20 days to appeal the ruling, and there is no word yet on whether that will happen.

Minister for Biosecurity Damien O'Connor said in a statement that keeping out pests and diseases is a top priority, and the Government has put an extra $9 million into checking imports.