3 Jul 2009

Court dismisses appeal over Wool Board funding

12:50 pm on 3 July 2009

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal from a specialist wool growers' group in what's expected to be the last round in a long-running legal dispute involving the former Wool Board.

The Saxmere group of growers, who produce super-fine merino wool, has spent a decade seeking legal redress and millions of dollars in compensation from the former board for refusing to help the group to fund its marketing plans.

In 2005 the High Court ruled in Saxmere's favour, but the Court of Appeal overturned that decision.

Earlier this year, Saxmere and its associates asked the Supreme Court to set aside the Court of Appeal decision on the grounds that one of the judges, Justice Wilson, may have been unconsciously biased because of his friendship and a business connection with one of the Wool Board's lawyers.

However, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has found there was no basis to any suggestion of bias. It dismissed the appeal and ordered the appellants to pay $15,000 in costs.

Provided there are no further legal challenges,the way is now clear for the Wool Board Disestablishment Company, to organise the distribution of remaining reserve funds that it's been holding on behalf of sheep farmers.

Manager Roger Buchanan says that will amount to more than $7 million.

However, the final form of the distribution will depend on the outcome of restructuring moves by the Wool Equities company.

At a special meeting this week, Wool Equity shareholders, who include wool growers, voted to sell a biotech wool protein business, Keratec, and enter a share buyback arrangement to change the company from a biotech to a wool development focus.