Gladstone fisherman Trevor Falzon talks outside Brisbane Planning and Environment Court.
Gladstone fisherman Trevor Falzon talks outside Brisbane Planning and Environment Court. Rae Wilson

Gladstone fishermen say bund wall leak cost them dearly

THE 51 commercial fishermen who say the Western Basin dredging project took their livelihoods will have to wait another three months to learn if their compensation case will even go ahead.

Many of them say they have faced divorce, relationship break-down and bankruptcy as a result of losing their fishing grounds and should be fairly compensated.

After decades in the fishing industry, most have found it challenging to learn new skills and find other work.

Judge Michael Rackemann on Monday adjourned a Gladstone Port Corporation application to strike out the fishermen's class action.

He was set to hear the application on Monday and determine some preliminary matters ahead of an otherwise anticipated hearing in the matter.

But after the parties had some discussions, more paperwork will change hands before a further application date in Brisbane Planning and Environment Court on April 15.

The case centres on the Coordinator-General's approval conditions for the Western Basin dredging project, which demand the port provide compensation for losing local fishing grounds.

The port has had a compensation process open for several months, but the fishermen are challenging whether the program has offered enough.

Gladstone fisherman Trevor Falzon said, outside court, that he hoped the case would expose what had happened in the past.

He said he believed there was a lot of evidence to support the fishermen's case that fish health had suffered and toxic soil from a leaky wall was the cause.

"We're hopeful eventually the truth will come out and we will be well compensated for what's happened," he said.

"We just don't want to see or let it happen again."

Mr Falzon - who depended 100% on commercial fishing until three years ago, also spoke about a proposed inquiry into the matter.

"At the end of the day it's not all about dollars and cents, it's about the environment," he said.

"The environment in Gladstone can't cope with the pressure it's under at the moment so we need to lay off a bit."

Compensation timeline

2014

  • January: Judge defers GPC's application to strike out class action brought by fishermen.

2013

  • October: Class action against GPC for more than $20 million in business losses launched by fishermen.
  • September: GPC compensation program extended. Eligible fishers needed to show that they used specific catchments between 2005 and 2010 and were left out of pocket from the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project.
  • March: Class action against GPC heard in Planning and Environment Court.
  • GPC's compensation program for commercial fishermen opened. The amount allocated will be calculated on 50% of the fisher's annual average gross value of their fishing product for their best two years. The sum is then multiplied by three.

2012

  • August: Fisherman Trevor Falzon's compensation claim against GPC for dredging activity dismissed by Brisbane court.


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