Canberra bushfire compensation bid back in court

Canberra bushfire compensation bid back in court

26 May 2014

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Australia — One of the main fires which joined the firestorm started deep in the Brindabellas, close to McIntyres Hut, in New South Wales.

The blaze near farmer Wayne West’s property initially moved slowly under benign weather conditions.

Ten days later, fanned by hot temperatures and high winds, the flames hit Canberra’s urban western fringe leaving four people dead and hundreds of burnt-out houses.

Previously the ACT Supreme Court found the NSW Government negligent for not containing the fires, but the state avoided paying any compensation because it found the firefighters acted in good faith.

Insurance giant QBE and Mr West have today begun a case in the ACT Court of Appeal seeking compensation.

They are arguing that NSW firefighters failed to act in good faith to put out the blaze in the early days and compensation should be paid.

Mr West says preventative action should have been taken earlier to prevent the fires from spreading.

“We always claimed that the fires were allowed to burn and they were left to sit there in our area for ten days until the weather changed,” he said.

“And our belief was always that those fires should have been put out.”

He says the firefighters did not act in good faith.

“We made 22 – 23 phone calls to the phone control centre and those phone calls weren’t acted upon,” Mr West said.

But counsel for the NSW Government today told the court that the fire was never benign and that it happened in very rugged country.

The appeal has been allocated nine days in court.

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