Guru being sued for defamation over Waikanae hedge row
By the Editor, Alan Tristram
The Mayor of Kapiti, K Gurunathan is facing a major trial over remarks he made allegedly defaming a well-known Waikanae couple, Vince and Raechel Osborne, over their macrocarpa hedge.
KIN understands he 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.
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 a long-standing dispute related to an historic hedge on the Osborne’s property, fronting onto Te Moana Road in Waikanae.
Some residents in the neighborhood claimed the hedge was overgrown and presented safety issues.
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
KiIN 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.
Allegations in variety of media
The first comments about the Osbornes or their supporters were first made in the Kapiti News in March last year.
The second occasion was a publication in Fairfax’s electronic media site Stuff on June 3.
The third occasion was in an interview with Mayor Gurunathan on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint on June 13, 2017.
Top defamation lawyer takes case for the Osbornes
The Osbornes, who are both well-known and respected members of the community, have retained a leading defamation expert, barrister Steven Price, to handle their case.
One source KIN spoke to said few or no Wellington lawyers were keen to front up to him in Court.
And, in fact, Mr Gurunathan is reportedly being represented by an Auckland firm.
The Kapiti Independent approached the Mayor for comment. He replied by email: “.. am in New Delhi at Govt. of India conference. Back Friday. Meanwhile have asked staff to look into your questions given the legal issues.”
The case continues…