Gladstone Ports' $100m pain over dredging class action
THE Gladstone Ports Corporation could face at least 200 court claims worth $100 million over its 2011 dredging.
Law Essentials and Clyde and Co are working to form a class action for people "negatively impacted" by the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project.
Law Essentials director and solicitor Chris Thompson said already they have signed 200 people within the seafood and tourism industry who lost money because of dredging operations in Gladstone's Harbour.
He said claims were worth "in excess of $100 million" and now he's making a plea for anyone else affected to come forward.
Of the 200 claimants, he said there were commercial fishermen and seafood suppliers from Gladstone, Hervey Bay, Mackay and as far as Brisbane and Sydney.
"We're confident in what we're saying ... We have the support we need right now but we just know there's more out there," Mr Thompson said.
"This even extends to people buying product from the Gladstone area.
"It's not a case of today we thought this could become a case, we've been gathering this information for quite some time and we're confident in what we're doing."
But Gladstone Ports Corporation's chief executive Peter O'Sullivan said any attempt at a class action over the dredging project would be a waste of time.
He said if launched, this would be the third class action from the fishing industry against the Gladstone Ports Corporation.
"Given the previous decisions, a third class action seems a misuse of the court's time, resources and people's money," he said.
"The two previous cases have been denied in court due to failure of the production of relevant documentation to inform annual catch amounts and potential losses."
There was 18.5 cubic million tonnes dredged in the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project, the largest dredging operation to date inshore from the Great Barrier Reef.
The majority of the soil was dumped in a reclamation area at Fisherman's Landing.
Mr Thompson said one issue his claimants had was during the three-week fishing ban in the Gladstone Harbour in 2011.
The fishing ban was imposed because of sightings of diseased fish in the Gladstone Harbour.
The Western Basin Port Dredging Project expansion began in 2011 to prepare for the three $70 billion Curtis Island LNG projects.
The $545 million dredging works and deepening and widening of existing channels in the Gladstone Port was funded by Gladstone's three LNG proponents.
The contentious issue left fishermen and conservationists and government bodies and the Gladstone Ports Corporation divided.
Mr Thompson said his law firm had enough information to run a successful class action.
"When this was all heating up back in 2011 and 2012 there were rashes on fish, rays and sharks ... commercial fishermen were throwing back mud crabs because they had ulcers," he said.
GPC defends its dredging project, noting its strict environmental monitoring before, during and after the operation.
"Hundreds of reports and independent reviews were undertaken during the project, all determining that the dredging project did not negatively impact on the health of the Gladstone harbour," Mr O'Sullivan said.
The Gladstone Ports Corporation offered compensation in 2012 to commercial fishers who suffered a loss of access to commercial fishing grounds in the Gladstone harbour due to the WBDDP.
It also established a $1.5 million fund for the development and rehabilitation of the local seafood industry in Gladstone through research programs and other contributions to the local seafood industry.
"It's disappointing considering GPC initiated a fair and reasonable compensation scheme paying three times the amount of the largest commercial catches for a two-year period in each of the four impact zones," Mr O'Sullivan said.