07 November 2014

Scars remain for Brisbane River flood victims

Almost four years after southeast Queensland was ravaged by floods, many victims constantly re-live the devastation, according to Ipswich councillor Paul Tully.

"Every day, every day" they see the scars left behind, he says on behalf of the 4500 members of the largest class action in Australian history who are suing the Queensland government over the disaster.

Brought by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, the case will be heard from July 18, 2016 in the NSW Supreme Court because Queensland does not have a class action regime.

Mr Tully, from the Ipswich suburb of Goodna, said on Friday the setting of the date had given victims fresh hope they would finally have their day in court.

But he is also mindful that by the time of the hearing, five years will have passed since the floods left behind a $2.38 billion trail of destruction, with 200,000 people affected.

In Goodna - the worst-affected area in southeast Queensland - more than 600 homes and businesses were flooded.

"A lot of people are still struggling. Behind the walls there are homes that haven't been restored," Mr Tully said.

"There's individual homes where you still see the effects of the floods inside, where places might look reasonable on the outside but on the inside they're still battle-scarred."

The class action claims dam operators were negligent during the 2011 crisis.

As the rain pelted down and water backed up, operators made large releases to prevent Wivenhoe Dam collapsing.

The lawyers say the result was unnecessary flooding in Brisbane and Ipswich.

Maurice Blackburn principal Damian Scattini says the trial date may seem distant but it's sooner than expected and there is a lot of work to do.

Many of the victims, he said, thought it would never happen.

Mr Tully is conscious it could be 2017 at the earliest before the matter is resolved, and remains hopeful a settlement might be reached sooner.

"It's still going to be a long haul," he said.

"There's ample time for the parties to sit down, when they become fully aware of the strength of each party's case, and I'd be hoping the government takes a lead role in this, and tries to effect a settlement without a lengthy court hearing."