Key Points:

A fishing company that sued the Government claiming it had been wrongly denied scampi fishing permits has been awarded nearly $3 million by the High Court at Wellington.

In a two-month civil hearing before Justice Alan MacKenzie, Trevor Goodship and his company Pranfield Holdings and United Fisheries sued the Minister of Fisheries and the Attorney-General for tens of millions of dollars.

They said the old Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had acted to exclude them from the scampi fishery, wrongly denying them scampi permits in 1990, and they had since suffered millions in lost earnings.

Both firms wanted to enter the scampi fishery in 1990 and applied for permits. The applications had not been granted by September 30, 1990, when a moratorium on fishing for scampi was imposed.

The companies were unsuccessful in obtaining exemptions from that moratorium. They claimed the circumstances were such that the ministry was liable for damages for losses which they claimed to have suffered as a result.

The plaintiffs claimed that a breach of statutory duty, negligence and misfeasance in public office had taken place.

The long-running case began in 1990, when the permits were refused. Later, a select committee reviewed the situation and decided the companies were owed Government compensation.

However, the companies claim the Ministry of Fisheries dealt with them in bad faith by misleading them about the amount of compensation approved by the committee.

Justice MacKenzie found that a declaration by the Court of Appeal in an earlier phase of the litigation was binding and must be given effect. He awarded $2.9 million in damages to Mr Goodship and his company.

United Fisheries' claim was unsuccessful and Justice MacKenzie found in favour of the ministry's earlier decisions on scampi.

The Ministry of Fisheries said it was satisfied with the High Court judgment. Chief executive John Glaister said the fact no evidence of misfeasance was found was an excellent outcome for the ministry.

Dr Glaister said Justice MacKenzie noted the changes in the system of management for commercial fisheries were among the most far-reaching of the reforms that transformed the economy and the approach to economic management from the mid-1980s.

"We have previously acknowledged that there were some inconsistencies in the administration of permitting during that time, but these have to be seen as minor in the context of the enormous benefits to our fishery that these changes introduced.

"The then Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries created the basis for the sustainable fishery which we enjoy today."

Dr Glaister said that since then these administrative inconsistencies had been systematically addressed and removed.

- NZPA