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Queensland floods victims await inquiry report

QUEENSLAND’S floods inquiry is about to hand down its long-awaited final report, with lawyers hoping it provide grounds for a class action against the Government.

Premier Anna Bligh will be handed the Floods Commission of Inquiry’s final report at 11am (AEST), after it reopened hearings earlier this year.

The inquiry sought extra time to look into allegations that it may have been misled about the way Wivenhoe dam was managed during the flood crisis.

The new hearings focused on claims dam engineers may have mishandled water releases and compounded the flooding that hit Ipswich and Brisbane in January last year.

The inquiry heard allegations that the engineers didn’t follow the dam’s operating manual and then colluded to cover up their mistake.

Much is at stake for the Queensland Government on that point.
If the inquiry finds the dam’s manual was breached the Government could face an enormous class action for compensation.

The inquiry will also make findings on other key issues, including land planning, insurance and the emergency response to the disaster.

The Local Government Association of Queensland hopes the inquiry will make a definitive ruling on who is legally responsible for producing flood risk maps.

“There is a lack of legislative clarity around who is responsible, in other words whose job is it to pull together the detailed flood mapping in all of the catchments where communities are at risk,” LGAQ spokesman Greg Hoffman told the ABC today.

The mayor of Somerset Regional Council said he would be looking closely at findings relating to releases from Wivenhoe dam, and whether they could have been better managed.

“The part of the report we’ll be looking at is to see what effects it would have had on the flooding of Fernvale, Wivenhoe Pocket area. That’s the first area that’s hit by releases from the dam,” Graeme Lehmann told the ABC.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn will hold a media conference this afternoon, after digesting the inquiry’s findings.

It’s looking at the potential for a class action against the Queensland Government as the operator of Wivenhoe Dam.

The firm has been representing the interests of flood victims at the inquiry and says it has 1500 registrants interested in joining a joint push for compensation.

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