Failed doubters trust leaves taxpayers at loss

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 08:45 12/01/2014

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A group of climate-change doubters has left the taxpayer at a substantial six-figure loss after its trust was liquidated following a failed High Court battle with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

A three-year court case over NIWA's recording of historic temperature data ended last year when the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust's final appeal foundered. It was ordered to pay NIWA $89,000 in costs after losing the original case; the appeals court then made another costs order, with the amount yet to be finalised.

The trust didn't pay the first amount, and last month NIWA pursued liquidation, but a trustee has confirmed the trust has no money.

NIWA chief executive John Morgan said it was still considering pursuing two of the trust's key players - former wine journalist Terry Dunleavy, a Justice of the Peace and MBE, and retired lawyer Barry Brill, a former National MP - for the money, but was waiting for the liquidation process to finish.

He added: "On the surface it looks like the trust was purely for the purpose of taking action, which is not what one would consider the normal use of a charitable trust".

NIWA gained an increase on the normal scale used to award costs. Morgan said he "suspected the judge [did that because] he think the merits of their accusations way below a basic threshold".

The trust's deed said its purpose was "promotion of enlightened awareness and understanding of climate [and other environmental issues", research and exchange of ideas.

Trustee Bryan Leyland, when asked about its assets, said: "To my knowledge, there is no money. We spent a large amount of money on the court case, there were some expensive legal technicalities."

Funding had come "from a number of source, which are confidential".

Dunleavey referred calls to Brill, who did not respond to calls.

Both Judge Venning and the Court of Appeal dismissed the trust's claim that it was in the "public interest" to challenge government departments, partly because the trust refused to back up some of its arguments.

The Ministry of Business, Employment and Industry wouldn't comment until liquidator Anthony Pullan's report on January 17.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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