Tuesday, 10 March 2020 09:09

We won’t go away!

Written by  Sudesh Kissunn
Aad van Leeuwen with his wife Wilma. Aad van Leeuwen with his wife Wilma.

South Island corporate farmer Aad van Leeuwen has a message for the Government: we won’t go away until justice prevails.

Van Leeuwen, whose farm suffered Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in July 2017, is embroiled in a legal battle with Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) over compensation.

While the van Leeuwens, who run 13 dairy farms and six dry stock farms, have already been paid out $6.3 million by MPI, they are seeking further compensation for professional consultancy fees, bank charges and assorted other costs.

Last month, the van Leeuwens won a victory in the High Court after Justice Francis Cooke rejected MPI’s bid to strike out the case and ruled the Van Leeuwens must be awarded costs. The claim will now go before arbitration.

A MPI guide on M. bovis claims, prepared in 2018, warns claimants against making the “mistake” of including professional fees such as hiring an agent or accountant or lawyer to prepare a claim.

Its explanation for why this was a mistake was that MPI could not pay for those “because preparing a claim is not a loss caused by MPI exercising powers under the Act for the eradication of M bovis”.

Justice Cooke ruled that the Court is not intervening in the arbitration itself. 

“The declaratory judgment proceedings can only resolve questions of the proper interpretation of the statute relevant not only to the Van Leeuwen Group’s claims, but any other claim,” he ruled.

According to the judgment, the Van Leeuwen Group has made a claim of $430,000 for professional services incurred while preparing the M bovis claim.  Judge Cooke notes that other claims for compensation have been made, but not finally assessed by MPI at the time of hearing.

Van Leeuwen told Rural News that he hopes common sense will prevail.

“We hope MPI will come over the bridge with paying out the extra cost.” 

Van Leeuwen said it was not just about themselves, “…but also for all those others out there that have been suffering losses after MPI promised them never to be worse or better off after slaughtering their stock.”

He says MPI can appeal and “drag it out”. “They can drag it out in the hope we give up and go away. But that will never happen; we won’t go away till justice prevails”

MPI told Rural News that it won’t appeal the High Court decision. However it says “the question is still to be heard by the Court if compensation is payable under section 162A of the Biosecurity Act for finance costs and professional and consultancy fees”.

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