Defamation trial against Labour leader Andrew Little to begin

Scenic Hotel has sued Labour leader Andrew Little for defamation. Photo/Mark Mitchell
Scenic Hotel has sued Labour leader Andrew Little for defamation. Photo/Mark Mitchell

A defamation trial against Labour leader Andrew Little is about to begin in the Wellington High Court.

The action relates to comments Little made about a management contract Earl Hagaman's company, Scenic Hotel, was awarded for Matavai Resort on Niue and a donation to the National Party during the 2014 campaign.

Earl and Lani Hagaman have sued Little for defamation and Lani Hagaman will begin her evidence today.

The jury trial is set down until Friday and witnesses include Lani Hagaman, daughter, Toya, and National Party President Peter Goodfellow.

Others include Scenic Hotel managing director Brendan Taylor and Terry Ngan, who was at hotel consultancy firm Horwarth which managed the contract tender at the time will also give evidence.

At the time of the comments last year, the Hagamans gave Little a deadline to retract his comments and apologise, but Little refused saying it was part of his role to hold the Government to account.

Last week, Little did offer a full apology but Lani Hagaman said it was too late and the court action would proceed.

The Auditor-General looked into the award of the contract at the time and found there was nothing unusual in the process used to award the contract or in the decision to invest public funds in an upgrade of the hotel afterwards.

However, she said aspects of the arrangement and the donation were outside the jurisdiction of her office. At the time Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the claims were ''baseless''.

The Matavai is owned by the Niue Tourism Property Trust on behalf of the Government of Niue, which owned the resort before then.

That arrangement was put in place in 2011 to ensure oversight of the aid investment New Zealand was putting in.

McCully appoints the trustees who are Ross Ardern (High Commissioner to Niue and father of Labour MP Jacinda Ardern); Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy secretary Jonathan Kings; and former High Commissioner Mark Blumsky, a former National MP and former High Commissioner to Niue who still lives on the island.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 24 May 2017 07:12:46 Processing Time: 635ms