A Little defamation?

Last month Labour leader Andrew Little made some controversial comments about Scenic Circle being granted a contract to assist management of a resort in Nuie, saying it “stinks to high heaven”.

NZ Herald reports: Hotel chain’s ultimatum to Andrew Little: You have one week to apologise

Last month, Mr Little compared the Scenic Hotel Group’s resort contract with what he described as the Government’s “dodgy deals” with SkyCity casino and a sheep farm in Saudi Arabia.

“New Zealand money, which was earmarked as aid for the island nation, has instead been given to upgrade a resort run by a National party donor,” he claimed.

Mr Little said at that time that the close timing of the donation to the awarding of the contract “stinks to high heaven”.

The Matavai is owned by the Niue Tourism Property Trust on behalf of the Government of Niue, which owned the resort before then.

But yesterday…

Earl Hagaman, the founder of the Scenic Hotel Group, said Mr Little had a week to retract and apologise for comments he made last month about the management of a resort owned by Matavai Niue Limited.

Mr Hagaman and wife Lani Hagaman said that after seeking advice, their solicitor had notified the Labour leader today that defamation proceedings would ensue “unless the position can be properly retrieved”.

Lani Hagaman said their lawyers had confirmed their view that Mr Little’s allegations were “false and defamatory”.

“We are asking for a full retraction and apology because no one should be verbally attacked and denigrated because they believe in democracy and the right to make their own unsolicited political choice on who they want to give a donation to,” Lani Hagaman said.

“The decision to make the donation was completely unsolicited and was Earl’s personal decision and nothing to do with the Scenic Hotel business.”

Lani Hagaman criticised Mr Little’s use of his Parliamentary role to attack their business.

She said her and Earl did not “come from power or privilege” and had strived to give others a livelihood and provide support to regional economies “where other big hotel chains won’t invest”.

“The position Andrew Little holds is one of power and privilege. It should be a privilege to be elected into Parliament and work hard for the people of New Zealand, rather than to cast unjustifiable slurs on people because they have made a donation to the party of his prime political opponent.”

Little has confirmed and responded:

Mr Little said he had received a letter from the Hagaman’s lawyer this morning. He was now “considering the issue and taking advice”.

He added: “I will not be restrained from undertaking my constitutional role of calling the government of the day to account.”

At that stage at least he didn’t seem to understand that the Hagamans were holding the leader of the opposition of the day to account

 

But Little appeared to later reassess his situation:

VanceLittleDefamationResponse

Vance tweeted after a press conference two hours later:

Little says he’s taking legal advice and he’ll respond by the deadline (next Friday).

But says he won’t resile from his duty to hold Govt to account. Won’t answer question about standing by statements.

Little seems to be confusing holding the Government to account and holding himself to account.

He has go himself into a very awkward situation here. He has recently taken to talking tough and has been called out for allegedly stepping over the line.

Taking a step back and apologising seems to be difficult for him. But not apologising risks dragging this out over the next few months and possibly in to election year.

This holding to account thing can be tricky when it rebounds.

See also: Little takes advice on defamation threat