Residents angry over bushfire compensation offer

Residents angry over bushfire compensation offer

24 February 2012

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Australia — Margaret River residents who lost their homes in last November’s bushfire, expressed their frustration with the government’s compensation offer at a community meeting last night.

The former federal police commissioner Mick Keelty addressed residents about his report into the bushfire, which destroyed 40 homes.

Resident Garrath Stewart says the government is offering compensation of less than $200,000, which will not cover the cost of rebuilding his home.

“As another gentlemen said, if the government has taken responsibility, shouldn’t they then be paying out all the shortfall as far as insurance goes and not just sitting at $190,000.

Yesterday, former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Kellty handed down his report, after two months spent investigating the cause of the blaze.

He found a prescribed burn managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation became out of control, causing the devastating bushfire.

His report also stated a series of errors made by department staff resulted in the poor management of risks associated with the burn.

He has recommended an urgent review of DEC’s prescribed burning procedures.

The Premier Colin Barnett yesterday conceded that although Mr Keelty had not found any evidence of misconduct, the inquiry revealed errors were made.

“However, serious mistakes were made, such as the lack of monitoring of the Ellen Brook burn, particularly overnight on the 22nd of November and the decision to commence another prescribed burn nearby at Prevelly, despite the challenges being faced with the Ellen Brook burn,” he said.

The Premier said while the government still supports prescribed burning, in the future it would be carried out under more rigorous management.

Class action

The law firm Slater and Gordon is looking at the possibility of a class action on behalf of fire affected residents.

The firm says the Keelty Report strengthens their case.

Lawyer James Higgins says at least 70 people have signed up.

He says if the case goes ahead, they will be pushing for more compensation than the $190,000 the government is offering.

“We welcome the fact that some effort is being made to compensate people, but unfortunately, like the Toodyay fires, that won’t be the end of it and there’s going to have to be further either litigation or discussions or settlements in order to appropriately compensate those for the full value of what they’ve lost,” he said.

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