Latest blow to 2011 flood victims
THOUSANDS of 2011 flood victims are at risk of losing long-awaited payouts, with the Queensland Government's water bodies set to challenge a court decision blaming them for the devastation.
The Courier-Mail can reveal SunWater and Seqwater will today lodge intention-to-appeal documents in the NSW Supreme Court despite a push within the Government to get the action shelved.
Almost 7000 victims, many under-insured or not insured at all before the flood, will again be left in limbo because of lengthy legal process after joining the class action and fighting for years for justice.
It is understood that the State Labor Government, which has ruled out appealing its proportion of the blame, sought urgent legal advice about ordering the water bodies to drop appeal plans through a ministerial direction.
However the Government was warned that ordering the bodies to side-step the appeals process would not stop a challenge from insurers and risked voiding SunWater and Seqwater's insurance, which is expected to cover the bulk of the payout bill.
Estimated figures on the cost of victims' claims vary between $500 million and $1 billion.
Without an appeal, the cost would have likely been borne by the budget bottom line, given the water bodies are already laden with debt.
In a joint statement, Treasurer Jackie Trad and Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham confirmed they considered directing the water bodies to drop the appeal.
"Seqwater and SunWater are public entities overseen by independent boards and each has its own insurance policy," they said.
"The relevant insurance companies now have a legal right to determine their next steps.
"If a ministerial direction to Seqwater or SunWater to not appeal the court decision could be given, it would not bind their insurers and it may compromise their insurance policies."
However Ms Trad and Dr Lynham insisted the NSW Supreme Court decision was a "defining moment" for victims and urged the insurers of the water bodies to drop their plans.
"The Queensland Government has already announced it will not appeal the NSW Supreme Court decision, and it now calls upon the insurers of Seqwater and SunWater to do the same," they said.
Maurice Blackburn principal Rebecca Gilsenan said while the firm welcomed the Government's decision not to appeal, it had not been informed of Seqwater and SunWater's plans.
"For our clients to get the compensation they deserve promptly, a whole-of-government approach is needed and that includes the two state-owned entities," she said.
The huge lawsuit was launched in 2014 and successfully argued engineers controlling the Wivenhoe and Somerset dam system allowed too much water to build up in the flood compartment ahead of a forecast deluge.
It forced enormous volumes of water to be released when rain rivalling the 1974 flood fell over the catchment, inundating tens of thousands of properties.
The trial began December 2017. It took almost two years to finalise.