Brisbane's devastating 2011 flood would have been no more
than a minor event had four dam engineers done their jobs
competently, lawyers for the victims will argue in a class
Approximately 4500 flood victims will seek compensation which
could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in the claim,
which was filed at the NSW Supreme Court by Maurice Blackburn
At least $5 million has been spent putting the claim
together, including expert reports alleging the dams were
operated in a negligent way.
The claim alleges engineers at the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams
repeatedly failed to follow their own guidelines throughout
December 2010 and January 2011 with both dams above their
maximum water supply levels during that period.
During the period in question, and despite forecasts from the
Bureau of Meteorology of "heavy and prolonged" rainfall,
engineers are accused of failing to heed warnings, ensuring
the resulting flood was a far greater disaster than it needed
"When our hydrology expert looked at it using what would have
happened had the dams been managed competently, the
overwhelming majority of properties would not have been
inundated," Maurice Blackburn principal Damian Scattini told
"Of the remainder? They would have had much less inundation
than they did.
"This is a flood that did not need to happen. We would not be
sitting here talking about the 2011 flood had the dams been
Queensland's long-running flood inquiry had already found in
2012 that Wivenhoe's dam manual was not properly followed on
the weekend leading up to the flood peak.
The inquiry's findings also resulted in dam engineers John
Tibaldi, Rob Ayre and Terry Malone being referred to the
Crime and Misconduct Commission to examine whether they lied
under oath and covered their tracks about the strategies they
The CMC found no evidence of collusion but Bentham IMF
Australia executive director John Walker, whose company is
funding the claim, said the firm's investigation was far
broader than the CMC's.
"The CMC looked at conduct in and around the period of the
flood, in the four or five days before the flood event that
caused the damage in Brisbane," Mr Walker said.
"It's the evidence that will be put before the court that the
negligence goes back to the first of December.
"That there was a flood event, as defined by the manual,
going back to the first of December."
Mr Scattini said claimants came from over 100 suburbs in
Brisbane and Ipswich, from "fat cats" living on the Brisbane
river to families still forced to live in caravans following
Homeowner Bill Proud paid $80,000 to fix his flood-ravaged
house in the Brisbane suburb of Yeronga and says he doesn't
think he would have had any problems if the dams had been
"If it was in some way not human error I would understand
it," Mr Proud told ABC Radio.
"I thought the people running the dam were incompetent."
The claim has been filed against Seqwater, Sunwater and the
state of Queensland and had to be lodged in NSW as Queensland
has no class action regime.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and Sunwater are both
refusing to comment as the matter is before the courts.
Seqwater CEO Peter Dennis said in a statement on Tuesday
afternoon that the court process would show the firm's
actions reduced the impact of the flood.
"Seqwater has never wavered from its belief that our
engineers did an extraordinary job in the most difficult and
demanding of circumstances," he said.
Mr Dennis added that two major rain events, generating the
equivalent of a 1974 flood, occurred across Wivenhoe and
Somerset dams less than 30 hours apart.
The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry made no finding
of negligence against Seqwater, he said.
It's expected the claim could take at least a year to reach
the trial phase.