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Little to cover own defamation suit costs

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/04/2017

Andrew Little © Phil Walter/Getty Images Andrew Little Labour leader Andrew Little won't use parliamentary funds to pay his legal fees in a defamation case brought against him by hoteliers Earl and Lani Hagaman.

The case, which includes a claim for up to $2.3 million in damages, is currently being heard in the High Court at Wellington.

The Hagamans argue Mr Little implied corruption on their part in media statements last year linking a $100,000 donation Mr Hagaman made to the National Party and the awarding of a government contract to operate a luxury resort in Niue to his business Scenic Hotels a month later.

Mr Little is defending the lawsuit, but has made two previous settlement offers, including an apology and compensation of $100,000.

Both offers were refused.

Mr Little said on Tuesday that he was responsible for his own legal fees and that the settlement offers, had they been accepted, would have been funded by himself rather than his leader's budget or the Labour Party.

"I have a personal view about taking personal responsibility if you are found to have done something wrong," he said.

The couple are seeking $500,000 each in general damages with regard to a media release and $100,000 each on five separate statements made by Mr Little in radio and television interviews on the timing of the donation and the contract.

As well as general damages they are also seeking an additional $300,000 in exemplary damages.

That takes total compensation sought to $2.3 million.

Mr Little would not comment on what a judgement of that amount would mean for him financially.

The case is currently being heard before a jury of 12 and Justice Karen Clark, and is expected to continue until Friday.

Eight witnesses will be called on behalf of the Hagamans, while Mr Little, who is one of two witnesses being called in his defence, is expected to take the stand on Tuesday afternoon.

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