Judge issues reasons for Fonterra injunction

A High Court judge has issued her decision laying out the reasons for granting dairy giant Fonterra an urgent injunction against a former director and the media.

Last Friday, Justice Karen Clark issued the interim injunction against NZX Rural Ltd and Leonie Guiney who was on Fonterra’s board until November.

Details of why the order was sought cannot be revealed, other than to say Fonterra claims Guiney has breached contract and confidence.

Newsroom was the only media outlet to attend the hearing where Clark suppressed all information apart from the fact Fonterra had made the application.

The injunction was then served on Newsroom and other media outlets as “unnamed third respondents” barring use of any information provided by Guiney.

Since the injunction itself did not suppress the names of the respondents, other media outlets reported their identities but Newsroom was restrained by Clark’s in-court directions.

The judge has since issued her written decision where she clarifies the suppression order’s scope, loosening it to allow NZX Rural and Guiney to be identified as parties.

Explaining her reasons for granting the order, Clark said Fonterra had established there was a serious question to be tried.

While there was a question about the impact on the respondent’s rights to freedom of expression, the short nature of the order and the fact it sought to protect confidential information outweighed these.

“The harm that would likely result from the unauthorised disclosure of confidential information would not readily be compensable by damages.”

March 23 or 26 have been suggested as dates for the substantive hearing, both which fall after Fonterra’s next financial reporting date.

Newsroom will continue to inquire, here and overseas, into Fonterra and its activities.