The group lodged a Judicial Review with the High Court in Wellington on Friday 03 August, seeking to overturn the decision, or at least extend the timeframes in order for MPI to gather and consider all relevant facts.
“As MPI representatives have stated, the MPI directive is based on a paperwork issue. MPI has not provided any evidence of an actual biosecurity risk presented by the relevant plant material,” said Kerry Sixtus, owner of Pattullo’s Nurseries Limited in Napier and one of the five parties taking joint legal action.
“MPI’s actions and directives are not based on an adequate assessment of risk. A reactive decision based on MPI’s procedural failure will set the industry back at 10 to 15 years and cost New Zealand dearly."
“We are asking MPI to act with due consideration of all the facts and to take a common-sense approach to this matter. MPI has set a date of 22 August for the containment and/or destruction of the plants, stating a requirement to act before these plants bloom. The horse has already bolted. Some of these plants have bloomed for the past three years and are already in bloom now,” added Mr Sixtus.
“While we understand that MPI is responsible for protecting our borders and need to take a cautious approach, we are at a loss to understand how officials can make such a drastic decision, based solely on a paperwork issue. The MPI directive to contain and/or destroy includes original plant materials imported and released from quarantine by MPI between 2012 and 2017, and also extends to any plants that have been propagated from the original plant materials."
“These include new varieties that have been demonstrated to be pest and disease resistant, potentially negating the need for growers to use sprays or heavy metals. Innovative plant varieties like these hold significant value for New Zealand. Containing or destroying these plant materials, which have shown no evidence of disease, could set the industry back 10 to 15 years - time we will never get back in a competitive global industry."
“This decision by MPI is likely to result in hundreds of millions of dollars of loss to orchardists and nurseries and will have a significant effect on the economy. We believe this legal challenge to be in the best interests of the New Zealand apple and stonefruit industry and we are optimistic that MPI will take a sensible approach to this matter and fully engage industry members to reach an appropriate outcome for all parties,” said Mr Sixtus.
As leaders and innovators in the apple and stonefruit industries, the group members all share a vision for New Zealand to be a strong global player in the international fruit market and are committed to developing and delivering high quality fruit that puts, and keeps, New Zealand on the map.