The Government has lost a court case over the Ministry of Primary Industries’ decision to seize & destroy over 47,000 fruit trees without compensation.
Estimates of the cost of this action to orchardists ran as high as $1.5 billion.
Waimea Nurseries Ltd, of Nelson, & other tree suppliers sought judicial review of the ministry’s action at a hearing in the Wellington High Court on 16-17 August.
Justice Francis Cooke ruled yesterday that the ministry’s seizure of plants was unlawful without compensation. There was already an interim agreement in place on biosecurity measures excluding seizure, which lasts until 5 working days post-judgment.
According to the court summary of the judge’s decision, the ministry claimed the trees were unauthorised goods because they had obtained biosecurity clearance following the receipt of misleading information.
But Justice Cooke ruled they weren’t unauthorised goods. He held that misleading information must relate to the particular goods, and there was no such information here. He also held that the trees planted in the ground weren’t “goods” because they had become part of the land.
Finally, the judge said the appropriate biosecurity powers in this case were, instead, found in sections 114, 121 & 122 of the Biosecurity Act, which allow for statutory compensation.
The ministry sought to seize, contain or destroy 47,827 trees as unauthorised goods. They’d been tested between 2012-18 by a US institution which subsequently lost its accreditation status after incorrectly reported test results were discovered during an audit.
Attribution: Judicial review decision & summary.