Legal win for macadamia farmer
WOLVI macadamia grower Troy Ziesemer is a happy man, following a confidential out-of-court settlement from Channel 9 current affairs program 60 Minutes.
With the cheque cleared and the money in his bank account, Mr Ziesemer this week declared an end to the national conservation issue which became known as the Noosa River "two-headed fish" affair.
Mr Ziesemer had endured nearly three years of investigation, media coverage and legal action over claims that chemical run-off from farming caused "hundreds of thousands" of fish embryo abnormalities at a fish breeding operation next to a property he runs at Boreen Point.
National media, including 60 Minutes, ran with the claims, despite a lack of evidence.
Noosa River fish hatchery operator Gwen Gilson claimed Ziesemer farm chemicals had caused the problem, a terminal form of siamese twinning, known to occur naturally as well as from chemical influences.
Some scientists say the condition can also be triggered by chemicals used in the fish breeding industry.
Ms Gilson announced she was suing Mr Ziesemer for damages from alleged chemical spray drift.
Mr Ziesemer in turn announced he was suing her and Channel 9 for defamation over the 60 Minutes report, which backed Ms Gilson.
Commenting on the issue, a Federal Government regulatory agency described the report as being "based on some extraordinary misrepresentations".
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority said similar fish deformities were common and had been recorded since the 1700s "when there were no agricultural chemicals."
A spokesman said the phenomenon was common in many fish species and almost always resulted in the deformed fish dying off quickly.
He said siamese twinning in fish could also be caused by changes in water temperature.
Mr Ziesemer, who keeps chemical-sensitive bees to pollinate his crop, said they were not affected by his use of chemicals.
Then came a Health Department investigation.
In 2010, primary industries and fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin said final results had cleared Mr Ziesemer and the macadamia industry.
Mr Mulherin said the tests had shown only minute and once-undetectable traces of chemicals, most of them not used in macadamia production, well away from the accused farm.
Tests closer to the Ziesemer farm had found "no detected levels of agricultural chemicals."
- Chemical test results - no traces detected
- Amount of defamation settlement - undisclosed
- Causes can be both natural and man-made
- (Report was) based on extraordinary misrepresentation