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TVNZ denies $15 million pay-out to Simunovich, confirms settlement

Thursday 14th January 2010

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State broadcaster Television New Zealand is denying reports that it and the New Zealand Herald newspaper, owned by APN News & Media Ltd., have paid in excess of $15 million to settle the long-running defamation case with Simunovich Fisheries, though it has confirmed a settlement has been reached.

Spokesperson Megan Richards said the stories as reported on the NBR website and Vince Siemer’s were “grossly inaccurate,” though she wouldn’t elaborate due to “complete confidentiality” terms.  

The case was settled before Christmas, and TVNZ has broadcast a public apology for reporting third party evidence on an Assignment programme relating to Simunovich Fisheries and scampi allocations.

The NZ Herald has attached apologies to related stories on its websites, saying it “retracts any suggestion in those articles that Simunovich Fisheries Ltd, Peter Simunovich or Vaughan Wilkinson were guilty of corrupt or illegal activities in relation to their involvement in scampi fishing.”  

It’s unclear whether Simunovich’s competitor Barine Developments and its director Neil Penwarden have also settled.  

Simunovich Fisheries, along with directors Peter Simunovich and Vaughan Wilkinson, claimed $30 million in damages from the media companies when they lodged their claim.  

The company had a win in August last year when the Supreme Court unanimously decided the media companies wouldn’t be able to rely on third-party evidence, and would have to independently verify the facts to have them admissible in court.  

The NZ Herald and APN News & Media, and Simunovich Fisheries did not  immediately return BusinessWire’s calls, while Penwarden was not immediately available for comment.

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