9 Jun 2010

Minister's defamation case costs taxpayers $200,000

8:00 pm on 9 June 2010

Environment Minister Nick Smith's high-profile defamation case has cost the taxpayer more than $200,000.

A timber preservatives company, Osmose New Zealand, had been suing Dr Smith for about $14 million over statements he made about one of its products in 2005 in the wake of the leaky homes saga.

The case has now been settled out of court, circumventing the six-week trial due to start in Auckland on Wednesday.

The terms of the deal are confidential, but Dr Smith says that his payout is less than he would have paid in legal costs for the trial, and that no public funds are involved in the settlement.

But the taxpayer has still paid part of his legal bill - Parliamentary Services has stumped up for $209,000 - and Dr Smith says that is justified because the comments were made in his capacity as the Opposition's building and construction spokesperson at the time.

He says he's relieved to have avoided the extra cost of a trial.