Horsham bushfire victims reach settlement with Powercor

Horsham bushfire victims reach settlement with Powercor 

24 October 2011

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia — Horsham victims of the Black Saturday bushfires are expected to receive a payout of up to 40 million dollars, after a settlement was reached between Powercor and landowners. Since hearing the news, the Horsham Golf Club has been able to put the building of their new clubhouse to tender.

The Remlaw fire started from a faulty powerline, and burnt 13 homes and the Horsham Golf Club.

After five weeks of argument over whether Powercor’s line maintenance was adequate, settlement was reached earlier this month between Powercor and 67 affected landowners.

Evidence was heard from approximately 30 witnesses in the court case, and much of it focused on the question of the electrivity provider’s legal liability for the fire.

Brendan Prendergast from Maddens Lawyers says the settlement comes with a denial of liability from Powercor, but that it is still significant.

“It was a hard fought trial and the settlement that’s been reached is a proper one given the risks that were facing both parties,” he says.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the Supreme Court, but Mr Prendergast is expecting this to happen at the hearing on November 22.

“My understanding is there has never been a class action settlement refused by a court in Australia; so based on that I would fully expect that his Honor Justice Beech will approve the settlement.”

The Horsham Golf Club lost their club house as a result of the Black Saturday bushfire and thousands of trees on the property were destroyed.

President Brian Thomas says the feeling around the club has been ‘jubilant’ since the decision was made on the settlement.

“We’ve found it very difficult in the two years and eight months since the fire to be able to move on and make any decisions.”

Brian says while the course has been slowly rebuilt and around 8,500 trees planted, the cost of rebuilding the clubhouse, around $4.5million, was too much for the club to secure on its own.

“Initially after the fire we suffered a loss of members…and we’ve been continually working away at rebuilding ourselves, but just not able to rebuild the clubhouse.

“As a result of the information that’s been given to us, the board – at its last meeting last Thursday night – decided to let the clubhouse go to tender.

“We’ve been ready for tender now for some six months, so Thursday night was a great night and we decided to let it go to tender, so we should be able to start rebuilding early in the new year.

“We’re sure of where we’re going and we know that we can once again become the Horsham Golf Club, with a clubhouse and the facilities that it offers to the community.”

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