Nurseries and orchards face a $1.5 billion loss, says lawyer

A new figure has been placed on losses facing nurseries and orchards over seized cuttings: $1.5 billion.

This far exceeds earlier estimates which were in unspecified millions.

The $1.5b figure came during a court hearing from a lawyer, Grant Pearson, acting for the Nelson area company, Waimea Nurseries.

Mr Pearson was speaking in a response to a question from Justice Cooke in the High Court.

The case involves 48,000 seedlings which were ordered to be either destroyed or contained by the Ministry for Primary Industries because inadequate or contradictory information from an American facility meant their biosecurity status could not be guaranteed.

A range of nurseries and orchards, including Waimea, have gone to the High Court wanting that order be overturned.

In giving the figure of $1.5b, Mr Pearson did not elaborate, but the judge indicated he understood it covered future as well as past losses.

The judge also suggested the Ministry for Primary Industries would probably contest that figure.

Meanwhile, the 48,000 seedlings facing the chop are likely to get a stay of execution.

This will take pressure off nurseries and orchards as the court case over their future goes down to the wire.

The nurseries and orchards with the seedlings have been told to destroy or contain them by 22 August – next Wednesday.

The judge’s verdict in this case will be reserved, leaving little time available before the deadline expires.

But counsel for the Crown told the court the Ministry for Primary Industries would probably not take enforcement action until the court case was settled.

Justice Cooke has indicated he will make orders on this question of timing.

Meanwhile counsel for the Ministry, Nixon Fong, has given examples of how deficient the certification of the imported plants was from the US.

“When one receives a certificate the impression is created that the correct tests have been applied and the proper methodology has been applied and that there is a proper basis for certifying on the basis of the certificate, ” he told the court.

“If there turns out to be no proper basis to make those declarations… it leads somebody astray and a false impression is created.”

Apples, cherries, apricots and other fruit are affected by this case.