Goodna resident Frank Beaumont pictured outside his home when it dried out after the floods.
Goodna resident Frank Beaumont pictured outside his home when it dried out after the floods. Inga Williams IS310113POSTFLOOD2

'Money won't fix everything': 2011 floods victim scarred

A GOODNA flood victim is optimistic a class action will bring some relief, but he acknowledges it won't go all the way to healing the personal wounds.

Frank Beaumont's troubles had only started when water touched the roof his Goodna home on January 11.

The family lost everything inside, his marriage broke down and children took three years to return to the home.

Lawyers for up to 6000 victims of the 2011 Brisbane floods are now increasingly confident of a win as one of Australia's biggest class actions begins winding up.

The class action by law firm Maurice Blackburn against Seqwater, Sunwater and the State Government began in Sydney in December, 2017. It has, at its core, the simple proposition that Wivenhoe and Somerset dams were allowed to fill with water, which then required that the floodgates be open at the height of the flood, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

A decision is expected by mid-year.

Goodna pub the Royal Mail Hotel during the 2011 floods. Photo: Contributed
Goodna pub the Royal Mail Hotel during the 2011 floods. Photo: Contributed Contributed

Julian Sexton, QC, for the plaintiff, told the hearing in the opening days that dam engineers effectively "bet against" Bureau of Meteorology forecasts and failed to allow adequate storage space for incoming flows during the crucial days of heavy rainfall in early January 2011.

Maurice Blackburn, in an update to plaintiffs, said lawyers at the forefront of the case were pleased with the progress of the trial as final submissions were prepared in the case before New South Wales Justice Robert Beech-Jones.

"As we have mentioned previously, we are pleased with the way the hearing progressed," Maurice Blackburn said.

"The Judge's questions and comments demonstrated a very thorough understanding of the case and he appeared favourably disposed to many of our arguments.

"Whilst we think that the plaintiff is more likely to win than the defendants, it needs to be remembered that this has been a very complex case and there are many legal and factual issues to be considered."

Maurice Blackburn said it was particularly significant that the evidence of a crucial hydrologist witness, which was initially rejected, had been allowed.

Seqwater has consistently said that its dam engineers did nothing wrong during the floods and had actually helped mitigate the damage caused.

Flooding in Ipswich in 2011.
Flooding in Ipswich in 2011. Rob Williams

Mr Beaumont was buoyed by the news from Maurice Blackburn about the potential for a victory.

"Saying that, there's a lot of ifs and buts," he said.

"I'm fairly optimistic that we will get something out of it."

"It would definitely improve your finances because a lot of people didn't have insurance.

"It would take a lot of the angst out of why we actually got flooded."

While the positives are there, Mr Beaumont said his family breakdown couldn't be paid for.

"No amount of money would help me there," he said.

"It was a debilitating experience for everybody."

Flood victim Paul Tully, a former councillor who lost his family home in the flood, has continued to act as a spokesperson for flood victims.

He said a few people had begun to become a little despondent about the length of time it had taken, and there was also the prospect of it going to the Court of Appeal and then even to the High Court.

"At least they (the flood victims) have had a fair hearing, which they all deserved, and if they get compensation it will be worth the wait," he said.

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