The government has agreed to pay $40 million to kiwifruit sector plaintiffs over the arrival of the vine killing disease Psa.
The Crown and kiwifruit sector reached an out-of-court settlement to the long-running litigation, which arose from the 2010 incursion of Psa.
Strathboss Kiwifruit Limited, representing a group of kiwifruit growers, and Seeka Limited, a post-harvest operator, and others, agreed to accept a Crown offer of $40 million, which included a significant contribution from the Crown's insurers of $15m.
The plaintiffs had brought a claim for $450 million plus interest.
The claim related to actions taken by the then Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and pre-dated the establishment of the Ministry for Primary Industries.
The claimants filed legal challenges against the Crown in 2014, for what they alleged was actionable negligence in allowing Psa into the country.
All parties agreed that it was time to move on, Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Ray Smith said in a statement.
"This payment to settle is a sensible one on a per head basis given the number of claimants in the class action, and their legal and litigation funder costs.
"But the settlement acknowledges the grievance felt by the kiwifruit sector plaintiffs."
"It is good that all parties can now move on from this event which goes back 11 years," he said.
Meanwhile, Kiwifruit Claim Committee chairman John Cameron remained philosophical about a $40 million payout instead of $450 million.
"I guess this whole case of Psa was something more of a moral issue that needed to be resolved as far as growers are concerned," he told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
Cameron said the Kiwifruit Claim Committee now had to work out the logistics of distributing the money to the growers who laid the claim.
"We have to get a formula, get it approved by the High Court and that mitigates any liability back to the committee insuring that the funds are fairly treated and spread around all plaintiffs that are within the claim."
Cameron predicted it would be around six months before individual growers saw payment.
Listen to Jamie Mackay interview John Cameron on The Country below:
Settlement voids appeal hearing
An earlier Court of Appeal ruling stated that public officials may have been negligent but they had statutory immunity from liability.
"In its decision of April 2020, the Court of Appeal found it would not be fair, just or reasonable to make the Crown legally responsible for losses of this kind, and that therefore, no legal duty of care was owed by the relevant MAF staff to the plaintiffs. The staff were protected by a statutory immunity, as was the Crown," Smith said in a statement.
The claimants appealed this ruling in the Supreme Court with a hearing set down for five days, beginning on Monday, 15 February 2020.
The agreement meant this hearing will now be vacated.
Cameron said the Kiwifruit Claim Committee's preference was to go to the Supreme Court, but, after consulting a separate legal opinion from an independent QC, decided it was prudent to settle.
"We may be better [off] to take some funds than none at all."