Team New Zealand wins court battle with NZME over secret report

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 10 Aug 2020, 6:07PM
Team NZ boss Grant Dalton has categorically denied any wrongdoing. Photo / Michael Craig

Team New Zealand wins court battle with NZME over secret report

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 10 Aug 2020, 6:07PM

Team New Zealand and America's Cup organisers have won their fight - for now - to keep secret the details of allegations around the spending of public money.

This follows a legal battle involving America's Cup Event Ltd (ACE), Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and NZ Herald publisher NZME that was heard in the Auckland High Court last month.

ACE and ETNZ had obtained an interim injunction order against NZME to prevent the media company publishing or broadcasting details of a report by forensic accountants Beattie Varley about record-keeping and the use of public funds.

NZME fought the interim injunction on the grounds of public interest, given the level of public money involved - including a taxpayer-funded, $40 million hosting fee.

Justice Moore today released a judgment, upholding the injunction that prevents NZME from publishing details of the Beattie Varley report, as well as any recordings of Team NZ/ACE meeting minutes or their transcripts.

"...the court is not 'gagging' NZME in the sense that the allegations contained in the report will never find their way into the public arena. For example, I accept there is a legitimate interest in the public knowing how taxpayer-sourced funds have been applied, spent, or treated," Justice Moore said in his judgment.

"But there can be no legitimate public interest in the publication of allegations, some anonymously sourced, where the public is denied the full picture because those who are subject of the accusations have not yet answered them."

The report, he said, formed only the first stages of a contractually mandated dispute resolution process between the organisers and council/Government. He accepted the report contained sensitive and confidential details and was "imparted in circumstances importing an obligation of confidence".

The Government has already announced that it is not making any further payments to America's Cup organisers as it investigates claims over the spending of public money.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said $40 million had been set aside for the event fee. To date $29m has been paid to ACE, in line with contractual funding milestones.

The Herald earlier reported details of a confidential June 22 letter written by MBIE and Auckland Council and addressed to ETNZ and ACE.

ETNZ boss Grant Dalton has steadfastly rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing, and previously said Team NZ was subject of a "deliberate, sinister attack".

A multi-national police investigation is also under way into how a hacker posing as a European television contractor convinced ETNZ to send a large financial payment to a Hungarian bank account.

The Government and Auckland Council have poured $250m into hosting the next America's Cup. The council is planning on spending a further $20m to support the regatta and other events next year. It's share of the $250m is $113m.

The Government is spending $136.5m, including the host fee of $40m.