AUSTRALIA – A CLASS action lawsuit over the disastrous Perth Hills bushfire will argue that WA is at far more risk of a bushfire sparked by an electrical pole than anywhere else in the country.
Lawyers for the 189 residents affected by the 2014 Parkerville bushfire will make the claim when the trial for the class action against Western Power starts on Monday.
In the trial, which will be the first in WA to be streamed online, Slater and Gordon will also argue both Western Power and regulator EnergySafety failed to provide adequate community awareness material about the need to have poles on private property inspected and maintained because of a cost-saving measure.
They will also argue that the dangerous condition of the pole at the centre of the case was missed by inspectors doing contract work for Western Power as recently as 36 hours before it fell and sparked the blaze.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Rory Walsh said the plaintiffs’ argument revolved around the idea that the utility was responsible for the maintenance of the poles, and contractors had failed to conduct correct inspections.
“(Inspections were) undertaken six months and again a second piece of work was undertaken two days before the pole collapsed — we say both of those works were undertaken negligently,” Mr Walsh said.
“Western Power already has a pole failure rate which is 10 times that of their own utilities in relation to their own network, and, unlike NSW and Victoria, it doesn’t inspect or maintain privately owned poles, which means they don’t know anything about these private poles — they don’t know the age of them, they don’t know if they’ve been inspected and they don’t know what condition they’re in.”
Sandra and Garry Elwood, whose Stoneville house was destroyed, said they had not fully recovered from the trauma.
While they have since rebuilt their house, it took six months for them to start the clean-up, and another 10 months to rebuild while they lived in a shed.
“It’s pretty bad, it’s 41/2 years down the track and I still haven’t got over it,” Mrs Elwood said.
“Just imagine you wake up one morning and you’ve got everything and you go to bed that night and it’s not there anymore.”
A spokesman for Western Power, which has maintained it is not responsible for poles on private property, said it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter due before court.