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Flood victims get their day in court

Goodna resident Frank Beaumont has welcomed the news that a NSW judge has ruled a class action suit for 2011 flood victims can continue.
Goodna resident Frank Beaumont has welcomed the news that a NSW judge has ruled a class action suit for 2011 flood victims can continue. Inga Williams

FLOOD victims from Ipswich will get their chance to fight for compensation with a trial date set for July 2016.

The class action headed to court this week as two of the three defendants, Seqwater and SunWater, moved to have the claim struck out.

Their application was based on a lack of detail in the claim, arguing an absence of any alternative water release strategy was a fundamental flaw.

The State of Queensland did not support the application before the court.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal Damian Scattini yesterday said the judge had ruled the case would continue.

"It is good news that we have a trial date," Mr Scattini said.

"There will be people that look at that as some time away but there is plenty of work to do before then. It's a good outcome.

"People will have their day in court. There's nothing that will stop that."

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers filed the claim in the New South Wales Supreme Court in July on behalf of more than 4500 affected residents and business owners.

Their case claims dam engineers were negligent in their handling of the disaster which ultimately led to huge volumes of water being released downstream as a last resort to protect the structural integrity of the dam.

The 150-page claim was lodged in NSW because there is no avenue in Queensland to launch a class action.

The operators of Wivenhoe Dam have denied any wrongdoing.

SunWater declined to comment on the matter and Seqwater would not comment on yesterday's developments.

The water corporations' moves to strike out the statement of claim only appeared to boost the confidence of homeowners and businesses that have joined the class action.

Goodna homeowner Frank Beaumont whose home of 27 years was completely submerged in the floodwaters, leaving nothing but three walls, the roof and internal timber frames to return to, yesterday said he was pleased to hear the claim was going ahead.

"The money is secondary to some admission that they were wrong," Mr Beaumont said.

"Yes, the money would be handy because it cost us everything we ever had.

"I've got no superannuation left. We had no money. We had to beg, borrow and steal at the time to even get started with the house.

"I want some satisfaction that that they did not follow procedures.

"We can't sell our houses. We've lost 39-45% of the value of our properties. We've lost all our savings, everything."

Goodna Services Club president David Christie said a large number of members were affected by the flood and the club struggled through an 18-month closure after the flood.

The club lost infrastructure and fittings to two buildings but was able to refurbish and operate temporarily out of the smaller function room three months after the flood.

Mr Christie said the club luckily had cash reserves to keep it going until refurbishments were completed but he said those reserves were almost exhausted.

He said the application to shut down the case only highlighted what the government-owned corporations had to lose.

"I can understand what Seqwater, SunWater and the government are doing," Mr Christie said.

"It's all about saving money. They stand to lose one or two billion dollars.

"Why try to stop it if there's nothing to hide?"

Goodna-based Councillor Paul Tully said he was confident Maurice Blackburn Lawyers would be able to prove the Wivenhoe Dam was mismanaged in the lead-up to the January 2011 flood.

"It is good the flood victims of Ipswich and Brisbane have finally got their day in court after four frustrating years," Cr Tully said.

Topics:  class action, ipswich floods



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