NZ KIWIFRUIT GROWERS Inc AGAINST STRAIGHT FURROW

Case Number: 2366

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2014

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Straight Furrow

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Accuracy
Unfair Coverage

The Complaint
Neil Trebilco (President of NZKGI) complained that an article by Jamie Ball published in Straight Furrow on 1 October 2013 failed the Press Council Principles of Accuracy, Fairness and Balance. In alleging that the article contained several errors the complainant gave two examples. The first was ‘Mr Ball’s claim that Chilean growers earn more than New Zealand growers for their fruit’. His second example was the statement that from 2001 to 2012, ‘average NZ grower payments fell for the first eight years before eventually lifting to just five per cent above where they first began’


The Paper’s Response.
The paper’s response to the complaint was from Tim Cronshaw, Fairfax Head of Rural Content. He said he was responding to the complaint as the editor of Straight Furrow and the reporter had both left the paper. The Fairfax representative wrote that the reporter had ‘looked into apparent discrepancies in the pricing for New Zealand kiwifruit in Europe and quoted official data on import prices of kiwifruit plus a reputable source in the form of the editor of World Kiwifruit Review. The article’, the Fairfax representative claimed, ‘included a range of views that showed a complex pricing system around the world for selling kiwifruit but also a balancing view from the complainant himself that Zespri, New Zealand’s single point of entry, was achieving a premium pricing over other countries.’ The Fairfax representative added that, following the complaint, Zespri had been asked if they would like to write an article giving its view of the questions at issue. Both the Zespri chairman and the complainant wrote and their letters were published on 15 October.


Discussion
It is clear that there can be ambiguities in any discussion of kiwifruit prices and returns to growers. This is stated in the article and helpfully discussed in the Zespri letter published on 15 October. What the reporter does make clear in his article is where he draws his information from. For example, the first error the complainant cites is when the reporter quotes the World Kiwifruit Review editor, Desmond Bourke, as saying ‘. . . I also use the EU databases [from Eurostat] on Kiwifruit imports. In that market, New Zealand has a slight edge over Chile in some years, and Chile over New Zealand in other years’. The second claimed error again stemmed from the reporter’s use of the World Kiwifruit Review. It might have been helpful to the reader if the reporter had engaged more critically with the complexities of the statistics he was using (and in this respect the Fairfax representative’s suggestion of a meeting between his staff and a representative of Zespri or the NZKGI seems a good one) but at the same time his article gave a far from negative picture of Zespri’s achievement in marketing New Zealand kiwifruit, quoting a range of sources including the complainant.
The paper’s readiness to invite and print the letters from the Zespri chairman, and that of the complainant, largely offsets the suggestions of lack of fairness and balance, and in the context of the whole article and the range of views that are given, the inaccuracies complained of do not have the significance to justify upholding the complaint.

The Council therefore does not uphold the complaint.

Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Tim Beaglehole, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Chris Darlow, Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, John Roughan, Mark Stevens and Stephen Stewart.