Class action against Lake Hume operators over flooding on hold

Flowing out: A class action against the operators of the Hume Dam, pictured during last year's flooding, has stalled with a lack of substantial support from would-be claimants.
Flowing out: A class action against the operators of the Hume Dam, pictured during last year's flooding, has stalled with a lack of substantial support from would-be claimants.

LEGAL action against Lake Hume’s operators over flooding last year is on hold after it failed to attract as much support as anticipated.

The action against the dam’s managers, including the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, was flagged after spring flooding last year.

However, a year on and a writ has yet to be lodged by Melbourne lawyer David Burstyner who has marshalled claimants.

“We think that roughly around half the persons in one of the affected regions has registered with us,” Mr Burstyner said.

“Not having the other half creates practical challenges for the case, although it doesn’t change the legal entitlements of the half who have registered.

“We’re considering whether there’s a way to run a claim for the benefit of those who have registered, because I believe they remain disaffected by the 2016 floods and keen to recover loss.”

However, there are no immediate plans to lodge a writ with Mr Burstyner saying related legal action, including a case against the operators of Brisbane’s Wivehoe dam, was a factor.

“We continue to consider the authority’s conduct was questionable, and in particular we are concerned about the potential unlawfulness of the level of disregard for forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology,” he said.

“The law in this area looks like it will be tested in forthcoming months, and we are monitoring those developments to see how that could help a case for persons affected by the 2016 flooding.” 

Asked what percentage chance there was of the case proceeding Mr Burstyner said it was “not something I can share”.

He said the lack of claimants had affected freedom of information activity related to the case.

“We made an FOI application, and in view of the above ‘critical mass’ issues plus the fact that it was claimed that our request had the potential to attract a vast volume of documents, and could therefore be too burdensome, at this stage we are pursuing the above matters before further progressing the FOI process,” Mr Burstyner said.

He told The Border Mail in April the FOI request would relate to how water releases from Lake Hume were handled and the detail around the policy of holding its level at 99 per cent.

Asked if his number of claimants was still up to 70, Mr Burstyner said “it’s in that zone” before adding “I can’t say more”.