Victims of the 2011 Brisbane floods will be paid $440 million in compensation from a class action against the Queensland government and Sunwater, in a partial settlement over the operation of the Wivenhoe Dam, north-west of Brisbane.
More than 6,500 residents won the landmark class action in 2019 after Queensland water authorities were found to have negligently managed the dam in the January 2011 floods, exacerbating damage to homes.
The historic settlement covers 50 per cent of the $880 million liability for damages.
State-owned dam operator Seqwater owes the remainder but is appealing against the payout, with a hearing set down for May.
“This has been a hard-fought and extremely expensive case on behalf of approximately 6,700 claimants … over many years,” a spokesperson for litigation funder Omni Bridgeway said in a statement announcing the settlement this morning.
Maurice Blackburn filed the class action in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2014.
Principal Rebecca Gilsenan said it was complex battle.
The action alleged dam operators were negligent in failing to use rainfall forecasts in making decisions about operating strategies, and failed to preserve a reasonable amount of the dams’ storage capacity in order to protect urban areas from inundation.
“This settlement is a very welcome development that we hope will bring some much-needed closure to our clients, who have had to endure significant uncertainty and frustration while the defendants fought this case at every turn,” she said.
“Of course, complete closure can only happen for our clients when Seqwater also settles or Seqwater’s appeal is finalised.
“The class will continue to vigorously fight Seqwater’s appeal, buoyed by today’s substantial settlement reached with the other two defendants.”
The settlement with the government and Sunwater is subject to approval by the NSW Supreme Court and agreement on terms, with an approval hearing likely to take place before the appeal starts in May.
Flood victim Paul Tully is outraged that Seqwater is appealing against a payout.
“The state government must direct Seqwater to withdraw their ill-considered appeal,” he said.
“It’s more than 10 years since the flood and this a despicable state of affairs.”
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