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Little takes advice on defamation threat

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/05/2016
Labour leader Andrew Little  © Getty Images Labour leader Andrew Little 

Labour leader Andrew Little is taking legal advice about a defamation threat, but he's indicated he won't back away from his comments about a donation to the National Party.

He considers he was calling the government to account.

It was revealed last month that Earl Hagaman, chairman of Scenic Hotels, made the $100,000 donation a month before his company was awarded a contract to run Niue's Matavai luxury resort.

The resort is heavily funded by New Zealand government aid and is owned by a trust on behalf of Niue's government.

At the time, Mr Little questioned the timing of Mr Hagaman's donation and the awarding of the contract, and called on the auditor-general to investigate.

Mr Hagaman and his wife Lain have now decided to take legal action over Mr Little's comments, which they consider to be 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," Mrs 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."

Mr Little told reporters on Thursday he had received the letter containing the threat.

"I've instructed counsel to give me independent legal advice," he said.

Mr Little has until next Thursday to retract and apologise for the comments, or further legal action will be taken.

"Those making the threat have asked for a reply, and they will get a reply," he said.

Mr Little said he had a moral duty as leader of the opposition to call the government to account, and would never resile from that.

"This was calling the government to account," he said.

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