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Court bill could bankrupt farmers

NEW ZEALAND - Bay of Island oyster farmers, barred from harvesting for six years, hope the Far North District Council's insurers will accept a $200,000 payout to cover costs of their bitter court battle.

The oyster farmers have been ordered to pay the council, through its insurers Riskpool, up to $400,000 in costs after the farmers lost a court case it took against the council.

But Farmers of New Zealand national operations director Bill Guest said the farmers would go bankrupt if they had to pay the full costs and had made an offer to the council of $200,000 for ``full and final settlement' of the debt.

Eleven Waikare Inlet oyster farms were closed in 2001 due to pollution from effluent.

Last year they sued the Far North District Council for $12 million, blaming the Kawakawa sewerage plant. However, a High Court judge threw out their claim, saying the pollution could have come from boats or septic tanks.

Riskpool, the council's insurer, then claimed costs of $806,031.60 for fighting the case.

FNDC spokesman Rick McCall said the council was aware of the offer from the oyster farmers, but it was now up to Riskpool, through the High Court, whether or not to accept the deal.

Source: The Northern Advocate