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Victims of southeast Queensland’s 2011 floods have finally secured a partial payout after the state government and a dam operator agreed to pay $440m for their roles in the disaster, AAP reports.
The Queensland government and state-owned dam operator SunWater have settled a class action claim by about 6,700 victims whose properties went under during a biblical rain event a decade ago.
But while victims are happy about Friday’s settlement, there is fury too for a third party found responsible for exacerbating the disaster.
Seqwater, another state-owned dam operator, is appealing the NSW Supreme Court’s decision in 2019 that all three parties failed the people of Brisbane and Ipswich and must pay compensation.
Back in 2019, Justice Robert Beech-Jones found flood engineers in control of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams did not manage them properly and did not follow operating procedures they, themselves, had helped write.
Their delayed actions worsened downstream flooding, he found.
In all, about 23,000 homes and businesses went under after huge water releases were made to make sure the dams did not fail.
Former Ipswich councillor Paul Tully’s home flooded to the roof in January, 2011. He and other class-action participants now face another long wait for the outcome of Seqwater’s appeal, which won’t even begin until May.
And there’s a lot hanging in the balance. If Seqwater loses, flood victims are estimated to be in line for another $440m in compensation, on top of Friday’s settlement.
“I would describe today as bitter sweet. Half of this claim is sorted but we need the other half,” Tully told AAP on Friday.
“This is now going to drag on through the NSW Court of Appeal, and if Seqwater loses there, it could drag on again for another couple of years in the high court.
“It’s hard to believe that 10 years later we are still waiting. It takes a toll. Not a week goes by that you don’t think of some photos, or a book, or something you want to put your hands on, and then you realise you lost it in the flood,” Tully said.
The floods case was heard in a NSW court because it was initiated before class actions were allowed in Queensland in 2017.