Stark picture painted as 2011 Queensland floods class action filed

8 July 2014
Brisbane and Ipswich would not have flooded in January 2011 if engineers operating Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams had not repeatedly failed over many weeks to ensure the proper operation of both dams, a class action filed today by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has alleged.

The claim, funded by Bentham IMF, was filed today in the New South Wales Supreme Court on behalf of more than 4000 flood-affected residents and businesses. It alleges that the flood engineers failed repeatedly as far back as early December 2010 to properly operate Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams, leading to huge volumes of water having to be released in mid-January as a last resort to protect the structural integrity of Wivenhoe Dam. 

The claim has been filed against Seqwater, Sunwater and the State of Queensland.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Damian Scattini said the January 2011 flood was preventable.

“Many people have been led to assume that the January 2011 flood was caused by unprecedented heavy rainfall in early January, and that as a result the flood that occurred could not be avoided – when that is simply wrong,” Mr Scattini said.

“The claim filed today paints a much starker picture, going back to as far as 1 December 2010, and outlining that for every day in December 2010 through until mid-January 2011 there was a flood emergency – where both dams were full, substantial heavy rain had already fallen and more rain was predicted.

“Despite this, at every opportunity from 1 December 2010 onwards the flood engineers failed again and again to undertake proper release strategies for both dams, irrespective of the continuing weather warnings that made it clear more heavy rain was expected.

“This continued until the engineers were left with no other option but to dump huge volumes of water at once in mid-January, leading to a flood event that should have been avoided,” he Scattini said.

Bentham IMF Director John Walker said the floods class action was an important and major step in helping to right the wrongs that led to the January 2011 flood for residents and businesses in Brisbane and Ipswich.

“Building this case over the past three years has taken considerable resources and a lot of hard work. We now have a strong claim that outlines clearly the many failings in the operation of both dams that led to the unnecessary inundation of thousands of homes and business premises along the Brisbane River,” Mr Walker said.

“We are pleased to be funding such an important case and in helping to right the wrongs for the many thousands of people affected by a flood that should never have happened,” he said.

“Major cases like the floods class action play a critical role in providing access to justice for past damage but also help to ensure better standards of behaviour going forward to avoid future events.

“We remain hopeful that in this case, it will help to make sure people of Brisbane and Ipswich do not have to endure another avoidable flood event,” Mr Walker said.

Statement of claims filed in the NSW Supreme Court can only be obtained via the court here.