MPI order to destroy stonefruit ruled unlawful

Growers are relieved the Ministry of Primary Industries' (MPI) order to destroy thousands of stonefruit plants has been found unlawful by the High Court.

The judge has encouraged MPI to work with fruit and vege growers to come up with new ways to contain plants that pose a biosecurity threat.

MPI ordered the seizure of 55,000 fruit plants across the country in June, after it was found the paperwork allowing them into the country in the first place was incorrect. They were all from one testing centre in the US, which failed an MPI audit.

Kerry Sixtus of Pattullo's Nurseries says MPI should have asked for testing histories before making the call.

"Where we can show that there are gaps in the testing, or MPI can say to us 'this test is missing' then we get those tests undertaken so we can release those plants."

He says MPI used "a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

"This has been a costly distraction for us during an incredibly busy time of year, but we are willing to move forward and salvage what we can from this bureaucratic mess."

MPI said its decision was "based on protecting New Zealand and our horticultural industry".

"We note that the judge found the diligence and care demonstrated in our decision-making cannot be faulted, that we very carefully and thoroughly researched the situation, and our decisions were reasonable," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"However, he disagreed with the sections of the Biosecurity Act that we used. We will be carefully considering the judgement and our next steps, and how to address the biosecurity risk that New Zealand still faces."

MPI said in June compensation for growers could not been ruled out. Thirty-two growers and importers were affected.

Newshub has contacted MPI for a response.

Newshub.