Water

Class action against MDBA heats up

By Country News

More than 500 landholders have so far joined a class action seeking compensation for what is described as mismanagement of water by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, and others are encouraged to sign up now.

The class action spokesperson and Barooga farmer Chris Brooks said a new-look class action document, which now states there has been $1.5 billion in economic revenue loss for Southern Riverina irrigators, was recently re-tabled at the NSW Supreme Court.

Following a due process, the matter will be back before the courts. It may be as early as next month.

“Instead of covering just one year, the class action now covers the two years in which we've had a zero general security water allocation,” Mr Brooks said.

“Because it's over two years, the size of the claim in losses has doubled.”

Mr Brooks and his fellow founding signatories first lodged the class action in May last year.

They were given extra time by the NSW Supreme Court to bring another draft with more plaintiffs to the table.

Mr Brooks said he had advice from his legal team that people can still register to be involved in the class action right up until the final hearing.

But he said given the specific timeline was unknown, it was important to register early.

“We had just eight farmers for the class action when it was originally filed. Now we have more than 500 and we want to get more.

“The settlement from this case will be distributed only to those irrigators who have signed up, and who hold Murray general security water entitlements.

“I encourage those not registered to do so immediately, as they have nothing to lose and everything to gain, including making the MDBA manage the water rights of the Murray into the future so we can again have a reliable water supply and become profitable again.

“There have been a few other changes since the document has been re-drafted, including bringing on Jack Doyle from Berrigan as the chairman of the class action's committee of management.”

The claimants have secured a litigation funder, which means a ‘no win, no fee’ situation applied.

In the event of a successful decision, the litigation funder gets a predetermined percentage of the win.

Arguing on behalf of the claimants is Ian Coleman SC of Culwulla Chambers, and Mr Brooks said he had given them the confidence this class action might see a positive result.

“We had the first direction hearing last week in Supreme Court of NSW so now it's game on,” Mr Brooks said.

“During the first hearing the MDBA said they wanted a second lead litigant because the class action has grown so big.

“This process seems to be having a greater impact on them than the 100 reviews that have been conducted so far, and we're very confident.

“All the hard work has now been done with gathering information, so now it's only a matter of slugging it out in court.”

Mr Brooks stressed the class action was not an initiative of Southern Riverina Irrigators.

To register as a claimant in the class action, phone Chris Brooks on 0419 505 404.