Action in court

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

A class action seeking at least $1.5 billion in damages from the Murray Darling Basin Authority will move in to the Supreme Court of NSW from next week.

Barooga claimant Chris Brooks, who launched the class action more than a year ago, said they move to this stage ‘‘quietly confident’’ of success.

With the action finally progressing to formal hearings, Mr Brooks said time is fast running out for landholders to sign up.

He said anyone not registered as a claimant after next week will miss out on any compensation awarded.

‘‘The discovery and initial proceedings will be complete at the end of this week, and then it’s gloves on, wigs on and in the the bog room from next week,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘Now that all the evidence is on the table we are quietly confident.

‘‘Our litigation funder, on the request of the MDBA, has put up a surety to the court which tells us he is confident of a good outcome too.

‘‘So this is our last hurrah.

‘‘There are 2000 irrigators in our district who are entitled to be part of this claim, but there are quite a few who are not yet signed up.’’

The class action is seeking damages from the Murray Darling Basin Authority for impacts on what claimants allege was mismanagement of the Murray-Darling system.

Having a litigation funder secured means a ‘no win, no fee’ situation applies.

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

‘‘We are alleging at least two years of gross negligence in water management, which we have costed at $750 million a year,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘We are saying the average production and income lost is about $1000 a megalitre, and we are quite confident we’ll be able to prove that claim.

‘‘What we need people to realise is that the volume we can claim on, in terms of megalitres, is directly related to the number of people who sign up.

‘‘Irrigators in the West Corurgan and Murray Irrigation Limited regions are entitled to register, as well as Murray Valley Private Diverters.

‘‘If you don’t sign up, you may miss out on a good opportunity to recoup some of your losses.

‘‘Next week will be the last chance for people to sign up before the class action is closed, which will mean only registered claimants will receive any compensation.’’

Mr Brooks said because of changes in class action mitigation rules, and changes in the firm representing irrigators, some people who registered in the early days of the class action may need to sign up again.

Claimants must sign a form from Banton Group. The ‘‘single page’’ form will be distributed at community meetings across the region next week, at which irrigators will receive a comprehensive update on the action from the solicitors acting on their behalf.

Meeting details are as follows:

● Finley – Tuesday, September 8, 3pm at the RS Club.
● Berrigan – Tuesday, September 8, 7pm at the Berrigan Sports Ground.
● Caldwell – Wednesday, September 9, 3pm at the Caldwell Hall.
● Wakool – Wednesday, September 9, 7pm at the Wakool Club.
● Deniliquin – Thursday, September 10, 3pm at the Deni RSL Club.

If you are an accountant or lawyer looking to learn more about the case and how it may affect your clients, contact solicitor Timothy Horne on 0498 050 276.

If you cannot make any of these meetings but would like to know more, call Mr Horne or one of the local irrigator representatives — Andrew Hicks (Murray Valley Private Diverters) on 0458 235 252, Andrew Kelly (West Corurgan) on 5885 2392 or Darcy Hare (Southern Riverina Irrigators) on 0437 794 723.