$50,000 for toxic mozzie remedy

A PEST controller who exterminated mosquitoes which were making a meal of TV stars at the Tweed filming location of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here has been penalised $53,000 for killing yabbies in Dungay Creek.

Brunswick and Byron based pest exterminator Harold Ross, who had been engaged by the makers of the British TV show, has been fined $18,000 as well as ordered to pay $35,000 in costs in the Land and Environment Court after pleading guilty to polluting the waters of Dungay Creek.

The court was told last week that about a thousand 'native crayfish' and 'some insects' were killed during the mosquito spraying operation in 2007.

The court heard Mr Ross applied the mosquito control pesticide 'bifenthrin', which is toxic to aquatic life, around Dungay Creek, some of which entered the waterways killing the yabbies.

He had been engaged by the TV series producers to rid the filming location of mosquitoes to stop the cast and crew being bitten.

In sentencing Justice Nicola Pain took into account Mr Ross' early guilty plea, efforts to clean-up the site and assistance with the investigation.

Department of Environment and Climate Change director-general Lisa Corbyn said the court's decision sent a clear message to all pesticide users.

“All pesticides must be handled and used so as not to cause harm to the environment,” Ms Corbyn said.

“This is especially important when using a pesticide near waterways.

“When spraying pesticides users must also be very aware of weather conditions”.

Ms Corbyn said any residents concerned about pesticide pollution incidents could report them by calling the department's environment hotline 131555.

No comment was yesterday available from the media centre for the program's makers, British TV company ITV.

In November last year it was revealed that Tweed Shire Council had been called in to help reduce mosquito numbers around the rainforested filming site because they were continuing to make life uncomfortable for the celebrity stars and crews.

A report tabled by Tweed Shire Council said that film production workers had experienced “severe attacks” from mosquitoes during filming and wanted to reduce the annoyance.

The council responded to the complaint by conducting research into options that could reduce the mosquito population.

At the time the council's entomologist Clive Easton said the research would concentrate on the vicinity of the filming but he added: “Given the sensitivity of the site we want to be sure everything is done in an environmentally-friendly way.”

Mr Easton said some possible ways to control mosquito numbers included breeding native fish to stock dams and placing lights away from the filming to attract the insects.

The council originally approved the I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here Dungay site from 2002 to 2004 and later extended approval until 2011.

A report tabled by the council last year said the show had spent a large amount of money and helped local businesses.

“We cannot accurately estimate the amount of this indirect expenditure but reports we have received from locals suggest that the amount of additional business is quite substantial,” it said.

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