I have written to Growers today, as Chairman of Zespri, to say I do not support or agree with the approach taken by the group behind ‘The Kiwifruit Claim’.
The Statement of Claim is not even available yet for review. The architects of ‘The Kiwifruit Claim’ are seeking to sign up growers to a class action before they have had the opportunity to properly consider the legal merits of the claim and before the Statement of Claim has been filed. I am extremely concerned that ‘The Kiwifruit Claim’ lacks transparency and fails to properly communicate the uncertainties surrounding the claim. Zespri completely rejects this approach, and believes that the profit which would be made by the litigation funder if the claim is successful reflects the high risk of the claim failing.
This campaign has been launched through the media with no consultation with the industry.
Psa caused immense damage to businesses and people, including myself. At its height it devastated peoples’ incomes, their assets, their savings, their life’s work and their selfesteem. It put immense pressure on people and families on orchards and in the wider community. But as an industry we’re well into the recovery from Psa and are firmly on a growth path.
Orchard Gate Returns are strong and orchard land prices have not only recovered from the effects of Psa but are now higher than pre-Psa levels. Zespri is back on track to deliver on its plan to triple revenue to $3 Billion by 2025, and will continue to make increasing grower returns its number one priority.
The last thing this industry needs right now is for the focus to be taken from growing our industry, and placed on a divisive, drawn out, and hugely expensive legal battle, especially given the poor process followed by ‘The Kiwifruit Claim’ and the uncertain legal basis of the case.
I believe that the industry will prosper by working with the Government, not against it. The industry is working collaboratively on a number of initiatives, such as the Government Industry Agreements, Research and Development, market access, free trade agreements, and Kiwifruit Vine Health, to protect and grow our industry.
Biosecurity is critical to our industry’s success, and I believe the best way to strengthen this system is to learn from experience and to work in partnership with the government. That is why the kiwifruit industry was the first to sign up to a Government-Industry Agreement on Biosecurity, and has an industry body set up to specifically focus on improving biosecurity outcomes.
Successive Governments have been an important partner to our industry. Our industry structure is a privilege granted to us by Government and creates huge value to New Zealand kiwifruit growers. This action will compromise the industry’s relationship with government.
Ultimately it is not Zespri’s place to tell growers whether they should sign up to this claim or not, that is entirely their decision. However growers at the very least deserve the people behind ‘The Kiwifruit Claim’ to be completely transparent about the risks – political, legal and financial – associated with this claim.