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Little's apology to Hagaman is rejected

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/03/2017

Andrew Little © Phil Walter/Getty Images Andrew Little Labour leader Andrew Little has issued a public apology to Earl Hagaman for remarks he made about the businessman's donation to the National Party, but says it's been rejected.

Earl and Lani Hagaman started defamation proceedings against Mr Little in June last year, vowing to "clear our names in court".

That was after Mr Little had commented on a $100,000 donation Mr Hagaman made to the National Party, a month before his company was awarded a contract to run Nuie's Matavai luxury resort.

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

At the time, Mr Little questioned the timing of the donation and the awarding of the contract.

He asked the auditor-general to hold an inquiry. She didn't find any connection between the donation and the award of the contract.

Mr Little has been silent since then, but on Friday issued a statement saying he thought the matter should be resolved.

"Over the last three months, I have made a serious effort to do that," he said.

"Today I want to publicly apologise unreservedly to Mr Hagaman for any hurt, embarrassment or adverse reflection on his reputation which may have resulted from my various media statements."

But Mrs Hagaman said the apology came as a surprise.

"It's difficult for us to accept this as a genuine apology if Earl is receiving the details after it was released to the national media," she said.

"Mr Little has had 12 months to apologise, and in the interim we've spent more than $200,000 in legal fees preparing for this case, which is now only one week away."

She said she and her husband would seek legal advice over the weekend but, at first glance, believed they would continue with defamation proceedings commencing in Wellington's High Court on April 3.

Mr Little said he had offered to make a substantial contribution towards the Hagaman's costs, which he had been advised was greater than would likely have been awarded by the court.

"My offers of an apology and redress have been rejected and the matter will now have to be resolved in court," he said.

"That is unfortunate. I strongly believe everybody's time, not least the court's, could be better used."

Mr Little said he would make no further statement until proceedings had been resolved.

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