One year after it ordered the destruction of millions of Stewart Island farmed oysters Ministry for Primary Industries has paid out less than $1 million of compensation in response to business loss claims understood to top $100 million.

MPI, in response to Herald questions, said two out of 40 claims by 15 parties had been settled in full and three partially.

To date, $989,428 had been paid out, it said in a statement.

Asked for the total amount of claims made under the Biosecurity Act to date, MPI said: "Indication valuations of eligible compensable payments, based on assessments undertaken to date equal $5.2m".


However claims by one business, New Zealand's Bluff Oyster Company, total $70 million, while the EEC marine farming company lost two million oysters to the MPI order. Commercial fishery company Sandford was also affected.

Asked for its expectation of total compensation claims, MPI said:

"Assessments are still being concluded".

The Act requires claims to be submitted to MPI within 12 months of the loss being incurred.

MPI's performance, from the original decision to compensation payment progress and the quality of communication with affected marine farmers, is "highly unsatisfactory" said EEC principal Joe Cave and "heartbreaking" according to New Zealand's Bluff Oyster Company founder Rodney Clark, who was financially ruined.

The criticisms echo that of New Zealand beef and dairy cattle farmers who have had tens of thousands of cattle destroyed in MPI's response to an outbreak of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis last year.

In the M. bovis case, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor agreed compensation payments had been too slow.

In late May last year, MPI announced the parasite bonamia ostreae had been found in two oyster farms in Stewart Island's Big Glory Bay.


Nine days later marine farmers were ordered to remove millions of oysters to save wild oysters in Foveaux Strait. The disease does not affect humans.

EEC's Cave said MPI's destruction order was "a knee-jerk reaction" and one year later Big Glory Bay today is teeming with healthy oysters. EEC farmed oysters on lines alongside its mussel operations.

Cave declined to say how much EEC is claiming and is highly critical of MPI's "refusal to engage in email correspondence".

NZ's Bluff Oyster Company's Clark said he has been offered 22c in the dollar compensation by MPI which had refused his numerous Official Information Act requests.

He had received no money from MPI apart from a $30,000 emergency grant six months ago which has disappeared into the company's debt hole.

He and his wife have lost all their assets. Fifteen years after starting the research and development that led to establishing flat oyster farms, Clark said they have had to sell their house.

A marine farmer all his life, Clark said at 60, he cannot get work in Bluff. His wife is working in a coffee shop.

He said investment in the company, mostly in R&D, totalled "tens of millions" from private investors, bank borrowings and company income.

The Clark claim for $70m-plus is via 11 claims.

"We had in excess of 20 million oysters, a hatchery, a nursery, a breeding programme and a retail outlet," he said. The operation, which grew oysters in baskets, employed 10 people including casuals.

The retail outlet had been operating for 14 weeks and was about to employ six more staff when MPI's destruction order came, Clark said.