25 Nov 2008

Settlement in $1 million crop damage case

1:51 pm on 25 November 2008

A Hawke's Bay orchardist claiming more than $1 million from Ravensdown Fertiliser for damage he says was caused by emissions from its plant south of Napier has reached an agreement with the company.

Paddy Donovan said chemical damage to his apples, pears and kiwifruit between 2004 and 2006 was so bad it became uneconomic for him to keep the orchard running.

But before the first witness was called at the High Court in Napier, Mr Donovan's lawyer Russell Collins told the court an agreement over the damages damages had been reached.

He also told the court his client was withdrawing a claim for damages for anxiety and stress.

Justice Wild agreed to dismiss the claims and commended both parties for resolving their disputes and avoiding a lengthy and costly trial.

Mr Donovan had earlier told the High Court that droplets of acid and fluoride ruined export apple and pear crops, and forced him out of kiwifruit production.

He says he had to borrow more than $500,000 from the bank and his family to pay bills, with another $200,000 coming from his accountancy practice.

Mr Donovan's lawyer, David O'Connor, said Ravensdown had always refused to accept liability for chemical emissions damaging nearby crops.

But in 1996 the company began paying compensation to growers with properties within 3km west of its fertiliser plant.