Guru’s Defamation Case Costs

Kapiti Mayor K (Guru) Gurunathan

Kapiti Council says insurer could cover Mayor’s court costs

By the Editor, Alan Tristram

The Kapiti Coast District Council has replied to KIN on the vexed question of ‘Who pays for the costs?’ associated with Mayor K Gurunathan’s defamation case.

The Mayor is alleged to have defamed Raechel and Vince Osborne in the dispute over their macrocarpa hedge adjoining Te Moana Road in Waikanae.

View of the controversial hedge before trimming work.

Gary Simpson, KCDC Acting Chief Executive, says:

“Should the Osbornes claim be successful, costs associated with this matter will be covered by the Council’s insurer.

The Council has insurance cover that responds to defamation claims.”

KIN understands Mayor Gurunathan is being sued for more than $50,000, and costs — as well as a full apology — for allegations he made in print and on the radio.

Historic case

It’s the first time in living memory that a Kapiti Mayor has faced  Court action over such a community dispute.

The case has arisen over the long-standing dispute related to the historic hedge on the Osborne’s property.

Some residents in the neighborhood claimed the hedge was overgrown and presented safety issues.

The hedge in Te Moana Road, Waikanae last year

The Osborne’s argued that their hedge was a family treasure, and they wanted to retain it; but they also carried out trimming work to lessen the alleged safety problems along the road (which does not have a footpath at this point). Later, the Kapiti Coast District Council conducted its own trimming operations.

Opportunity to publicly apologise

KIN understands that the Mayor was given an opportunity to issue a detailed written public apology by the Osborne’s lawyer, but declined.



Again, we understand that Mr Gurunathan’s lawyer came up with a form of apology to try to settle the issue, but this was obviously not satisfactory to the other side.

The case is expected to end up in Court in Wellington early this year.

Thanks to the acting CEO and KIN for the update on where the potential costs in any deformation case might lie–with the Council’s insurers.

One assumes the Council’s insurance has an excess and therefore not all if any of the potential legal costs will actually be paid by the insurer.
Can KCDC confirm whether all the potential costs are within the insurance excess?

I understood NZ Councils self insured in a pooled system with other Councils. Is this correct?

Therefore where does the cost of potential law suits land? With the ratepayer ultimately?

(Readers may recall Councillor Gurunathan took a case against the Council in connection with representation on the CEO’s performance Review Committee in the last trieneum. (He made much of this in his election campaign). The cost was I understand around $30K for Clr. Gurunathan’s legal representation plus the Council’s legal and staff costs which one might assume were in excess of $30K. A double whammy for ratepayers!)