The Federal Government has confirmed a Far North Queensland family is not under investigation for illegal tree clearing and has complied with all obligations under federal environmental law.
The confirmation comes just a week after Queensland Country Life revealed the Jonsson family were pursuing legal action against the national broadcaster after ABC TV ran a story claiming the Federal Government was investigating the illegal clearing of 60 hectares on the Jonsson’s Mount Garnet property, Wombinoo Station.
In a statement provided to QCL today, the Minister for Environment and Energy said:
“I am advised the Jonsson Family are highly respected in the local community for their agricultural enterprise, Wombinoo Station.
“Allegations of illegal land clearing, made against them by the Wilderness Society and reported by the ABC on 23 November 2017, were looked at by my department and dismissed as unfounded.
“The Jonsson family are complying with their obligations under federal environmental law and a proposal for future clearing is being assessed by the department.”
The story, which appeared on the Queensland ABC TV news just days ahead of the Queensland election, included drone footage provided to the ABC by The Wilderness Society who also claimed the cleared area was home to koalas.
This week, QCL was unable to locate a recording of the story posted on Facebook by the ABC and shared on the Wilderness Society’s page. Only muted drone footage appears on the ABC website.
The Jonssons say they have been subjected to verbal and written abuse because of the false accusations made in the ABC story.
Two days after the story aired, the Jonssons returned to their property to find a bulldozer had been set alight and destroyed and a property sign vandalised with the words ‘koala killer’.
A lawyer for the Jonsson family, David Kempton, Preston Law, Cairns, said the Jonssons had now initiated legal proceedings against the ABC under the Defamation Act.
“It appears the ABC has acted with reckless disregard in relation to the unfounded allegations made by The Wilderness Society,” Mr Kempton said.
“The Jonsson family is also considering all legal options against The Wilderness Society including criminal prosecution.
“They are determined to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of those responsible for this cowardly attack on their family, reputation and business.
“I have been through all the approvals, correspondence and reports and the allegations of clearing without approval or injuring koalas are completely without foundation.”
Warren Jonsson said the family had also received messages of support from “across Australia” over the saga.
He said correspondence he had received from the Federal Department of Environment, confirming he had not been under investigation for illegal clearing, had provided fresh motivation to pursue legal action.
“The support has been overwhelming but only today we can feel confident that justice will be done,” he said.
“I intend to take this all the way, not just for what has been done to our family and business but there is a lot of other people that have had the same thing happen to them - businesses and individuals who have been crucified with false allegations in the media.
“They just happened to pick on the wrong bloke this time.”
Queensland Country Life has sought comment from the ABC on two occasions. Both requests were denied.