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Palaszczuk government, dam authority to pay $440m to flood victims


Ten years after the Brisbane floods, two of the three public sector defendants sued over dam management have sought to settle a class action.

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In a statement this morning, litigation funder Omni Bridgeway revealed the State of Queensland and Sunwater had settled their collective 50 per cent liability in the class action for $440 million.

That would suggest the total payout, once an appeal is finalised, could be almost $1 billion. Much of that money will go to law firm Maurice Blackburn and its funders.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Rebecca Gilsenan said the settlement followed a long and arduous legal battle for flood victims who blamed the defendants for contributing to their losses.

“It has now been ten years since the Brisbane and Ipswich floods, so this settlement is a very welcome development that we hope will bring some much-needed closure to our clients, who have had to endure significant uncertainty and frustration while the defendants fought this case at every turn,” Gilsenan said.

“Of course, complete closure can only happen for our clients when Seqwater also settles or Seqwater’s appeal is finalised. The class will continue to vigorously fight Seqwater’s appeal, buoyed by today’s substantial settlement reached with the other two defendants.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, also in a statement, confirmed the settlement but said it was “still to be formally documented and will require approval by the court”.

In November 2019, the NSW Supreme Court found flood damage was exacerbated by the negligent operation of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams during the 2011 disaster.

Seqwater, Sunwater and the Queensland Government were ordered to pay damages – not quantified at the time – however Seqwater subsequently lodged an appeal.

News of the settlement comes after Queensland’s Auditor-General, Brendan Worrall, criticised Seqwater for failing to recognise the financial implications of the court judgement.

Sunwater, by comparison, had recorded a $330 million liability for its 30 per cent share of the damages, which could indicate that the settlement amount was lower than it feared. The government had also made provisions in the budget.

Seqwater was ordered to shoulder half of the liability.

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