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PM pleased court case over for minister

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nick Smith
Nick Smith

Wellington, June 9 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key says he is pleased a drawn out court case involving cabinet minister Nick Smith has been settled, and has no concerns about his legal costs being covered by the taxpayer.

The case was sparked after timber preservatives producer Osmose New Zealand alleged the Nelson MP and timber preservation scientist Robin Wakeling defamed it.

Osmose New Zealand, a division of a US-based wood preservation corporation, alleged that statements made in July 2005 about the company's surface-treated timber product, T1.2, destroyed the product's reputation and the company lost more than $14 million in projected profit.

Counsel for the parties appeared in the High Court at Auckland today to announce an agreement had been reached, but the terms were confidential.

Dr Smith said no public money was involved in the settlement, and that the amount of that settlement was more than his legal fees, which exceeded $200,000.

Under Parliamentary rules those costs are covered by Parliamentary Service -- something Dr Smith said he was grateful for.

He said finally getting closure on the case was a relief.

"It's been a very draining five years," he said.

"I'm pleased to have it behind me so I can focus on my job as being MP for Nelson and my ministerial roles."

Mr Key said with the emissions trading scheme and other pressing issues on Dr Smith's plate it would be a relief for him to be able to focus.

"I'm pleased for Nick that it has come to an end," he told reporters.

"It's a cause he felt very passionately about and in the end it always adds a lot of stress to an MP when you're facing potentially a $14 million defamation case."

Mr Key said Parliamentary rules permitted the covering of legal costs from the public purse when an MP in his or her work ended up in such situations, and Dr Smith had genuinely been trying to do what he felt was best.

"That ultimately led to a court case and we assisted him, but at the end of the day it has still cost Nick an awful lot of money..."

Several other MPs had in the past been assisted with legal expenses when getting into legal wrangles in their jobs.

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