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Floods class action: farmer says 'most intense' he has seen

Lowood farmer Wayne Keller stands next to his irrigator which was overturned in the January 2011 floods. His uncle John, who lives on a neighbouring property, testified in a class action law suit in Sydney today.
Lowood farmer Wayne Keller stands next to his irrigator which was overturned in the January 2011 floods. His uncle John, who lives on a neighbouring property, testified in a class action law suit in Sydney today. Claudia Baxter

A LOCKYER Valley farmer who lost crops and equipment in the 2011 flood crisis has recalled the devastating ordeal, telling a court he remembers wading "knee deep" through his flooded home.

The NSW Supreme Court is in the second month of a class action - against the Queensland Bulk Water Authority trading as Seqwater - on behalf of more than 6000 people affected by the January 2011 floods.

At the heart of their claim is that operators of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams failed to follow their manuals in the emergency and didn't take enough account of rain forecasts at the time, which caused unnecessary flooding downstream.

The trial is hearing testimony from several land owners whose properties were impacted by the swollen Brisbane River and Lockyer Creek at the time.


On Monday, Lowood farmer John Keller, who lost crops and farm equipment in the disaster, agreed that rainfall at the height of the crisis was some of the "most intense" he had ever witnessed.

"That was on the 11th," he said.

"We knew it was going to be a fair flood, we had a lot of rain that day."

Mr Keller said he regularly checked local flood warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology in the week leading up to January 11 when rising waters isolated his property and cut power.

He told the court it was likely more than 150mm of rain fell on January 11, but it was difficult to be exact because his rain gauge got washed away.

The court heard that by the afternoon of that day, water had "started to run through" his house until it was "knee deep".

Outside court Maurice Blackburn principal Vavaa Mawuli said Mr Keller was one of thousands of people who suffered terribly in the 2011 floods.

"Mr Keller lost his crops and his farming equipment," she told reporters.

"This is just a tiny insight into the experience of 6500 class members that we represent in this case.

"The focus of the case will now turn to what the dam operators did to manage this crisis. This is the real issue in the case."

 

Maurice Blackburn principal Vavaa Mawuli and lead claimant, Fairfield Garden's sports shop owner Vince Rodriguez, outside NSW Supreme Court. They are involved in the class action related to the 2011 floods in south-east Queensland.
Maurice Blackburn principal Vavaa Mawuli and lead claimant, Fairfield Garden's sports shop owner Vince Rodriguez, outside NSW Supreme Court. They are involved in the class action related to the 2011 floods in south-east Queensland. Sam McKeith

Lead claimant, Fairfield Gardens sports shop owner Vince Rodriguez, told reporters it was important to hold the government to account for what had happened.

"We had our house and our business flooded, the shopping centre was closed for about five months and re-opened after that but we never recovered," he said.

The trial continues before Justice Robert Beech-Jones. - NewsRegional

Topics:  2011 floods bureau of meteorology class action lockyer valley maurice blackburn somerset dam wivenhoe dam

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