Feud over property damage

By Alana Christensen on August 09, 2017
  • Feud over property damage

    Tongala farmers Judi Pay and Peter Tomkins say Connections work on their property have caused thousands of dollars damage.

Goulburn-Murray Water has found itself head-to-head with Tongala farmers Judi Pay and Peter Tomkins over Connections works undertaken on their property.

The couple says G-MW has caused more than $140000 in damages to the property following works on a backbone channel that ultimately spilled over onto the property.

The dairy farmers, who milk 200 cows on their 80ha property, said they’ve lost use of a sixth of their land due to incomplete works on their private channel.

A settlement of $58000 was offered by G-MW, yet Mrs Pay and Mr Tomkins said the offer failed to cover the cost of loss of production and quotes to repair the irrigation channel, replace topsoil and fix paddock damage, re-fencing, driveway improvements and eradicate Bathurst burrs that were transported onto the property as part of the channel works.

When contractors arrived on their property in May last year to advise they would be accessing the property to undertake works to the channel, Mrs Pay said they never believed it would end this way.

‘‘We believed they’d be professional. We firmly believed they’d do the right thing,’’ she said.

‘‘It was hectic and noisy chaos ... if they played by the rules this wouldn’t have happened.’’

Mrs Pay said the situation had a massive impact and they were willing to take it as far as necessary to be resolved.

‘‘This isn’t just about the impact on our current production, it impacts our production well into the future as well,’’ she said.

The works on the property were to be completed by August 15, 2016 and although the main channel has been completed, the couple’s private channel is currently without bay outlets.

The pair does not expect the 12ha of property that has been unable to be irrigated to be returned to its original condition for another two years.

Morrison and Sawers Lawyers’ Edwin Kennon said that had help been offered to Mrs Pay and Mr Tomkins in March this year, their loss of production could have been reduced by more than $40000.

He encouraged farmers to ensure they take photos and document any existing area before any works begin to ensure that all parties are aware of what stood prior to any work.

‘‘You have to know the scope of works and take photos of everything beforehand,’’ he said.

He suggested landholders insist on a condition that an engagement officer be appointed to supervise the performance of the contractor.

Ultimately, Mr Kennon said it was important that people understood what the works would mean and where the responsibilities lay.

‘‘You have to be fair and reasonable,’’ he said.

Connections project director Frank Fisseler said they were aware of the claim and had met with the landowners on a number of occasions to resolve the matter.

‘‘As you would expect, the project takes all claims very seriously,’’ Mr Fisseler said.

‘‘Every claim is thoroughly investigated, validated and checked against facts to ensure that compensation is paid for genuine claims.’’

By Alana Christensen on August 09, 2017

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