9 Oct 2014

Strong message to kiwifruit industry

2:05 pm on 9 October 2014

The Independent Kiwifruit Growers Association is calling on the major players in the kiwifruit industry to let growers make up their own minds about joining a class action lawsuit against the Government.

kiwifruit on vines

Photo: PHOTO NZ

A group of kiwifruit growers is looking to take legal action against the government to try and hold it accountable for letting the bacterial disease Psa into the country.

Psa wiped out the industry's most profitable cultivar, causing orchard values to collapse and leading to massive financial losses for growers.

Some estimates put total losses at close to $1 billion.

Industry groups like Zespri and Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated have been advising growers against trying to seek compensation for their losses by joining the class action.

Growers should be left alone

But a grower liaison for the Independent Kiwifruit Growers Association Ross Hart said while he is not involved in the class action himself, he feels the industry should leave growers alone to make their own decision and stop trying to deter them.

"As an individual grower - that's my choice. We still live in a democratic country and what we have found as a group is that anybody who questions the integrity of the industry can be somewhat targetted.

And, I think the fear tactics have already been put out by KGI and Zespri as to the danger to the industry, but any form of accountability and anything that drives trust in anything has got to be good," he said.

Mr Hart said accountability is very important.

Kiwifruit orchards throughout the North Island including Te Puke have been affected.

Kiwifruit orchards throughout the North Island including Te Puke have been affected. Photo: PHOTO NZ

A Government-commissioned report into the incursion pointed the finger at a shipment of psa-infected kiwifruit pollen and anthers from China which the Ministry for Primary Industries predecessor MAF, wrongly let into the country.

Psa was first detected in a Bay of Plenty orchard next door to the importer of the infected kiwifruit material.

Science carried out by Otago University's genomics professor Russell Poulter found New Zealand has the same strain of Psa as is found as in the Chinese region where the infected plant material came from.

Lawsuit commonsense - Peters

New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters said he can't believe the legal action from growers in the kiwifruit industry has so taken long.

100914. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Winston Peters talking about police numbers at Hutt Gables Retirement Village.

NZ First Leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

"Well frankly it was inevitable that they would have to take action because the losses have been massive in the industry and it looks like the border security, when it comes to this issue, has been less than efficient or adequate and that's what their case will be based on."

Mr Peters said he can't fathom why industry groups are trying to scare growers off from trying to get compensation that they may well be entitled to.

"Well they are not the ones who are bearing the massive losses in the way that the growers are and frankly the industry should surely be joining with them in their collective interests rather than at the top trying to shut down genuine grievance and genuine concern."

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