Community probes possible Hazelwood mine fire action at meeting

14 September 2014
Latrobe Valley residents impacted by the February fires emanating from the Hazelwood open cut coal mine will gather today in Morwell, with the possibility of a class action against the mine operator GDF Suez high on the agenda.

Maurice Blackburn’s national head of class actions, Andrew Watson, will address the community meeting to discuss the firm’s current investigation into the fire including:

  • key findings from the final report from the Board of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry
  • efforts to understand the extent of loss and damage suffered by the community, and
  • the scope and nature of the potential class action.

Mr Watson said that although class actions cases are complex, resource-intensive, lengthy and that they needed a number of factors to go right to succeed, the firm believes there is strong merit in a potential case and will do all it can to represent affected people’s interests.

“We’ve formed a strong view, backed by the Inquiry’s report, that there are serious questions to be answered about GDF Suez’s conduct and that they have a case to answer for the losses they have caused the community,” Mr Watson said.

“We’ll be talking to people directly today to give them more information about how class actions work, about what’s involved from their perspective, and to answer the questions people have.”

Mr Watson said this case was another stark example of how the class actions mechanism is the only viable way people affected by a mass wrong could even consider pursuing accountability and compensation through legal channels.

Wendy Farmer, from Voices of the Valley, said there was strong local interest in holding the mine’s operators accountable for the impacts of the fire.

“There’s a growing chorus in our community who want to find a way to hold GDF Suez accountable for this preventable disaster, and we’re continuing to work with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers to pursue our best options,” Ms Farmer said.

Gino Andrieri, Principal Lawyer in Maurice Blackburn’s Traralgon office, urged any affected residents to register their details with Maurice Blackburn online at: or by calling 1800 643 211.

“We’re continuing to investigate a potential claim, but importantly, it has to be something the community supports pursuing,” Mr Andrieri said.