Testing the waters

Community led calls for a class action over the Hazelwood mine fire have been heard, with compensation law firm Maurice Blackburn launching an investigation into the incident.

An online registration page for individuals and businesses which have suffered losses and damages as a result of the fire was due to go live last night.

Maurice Blackburn Traralgon principal Gino Andrieri said the likelihood of a class action occurring would depend on the investigation’s outcomes and the outcomes of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, which is due to be tabled in State Parliament on Tuesday.

“We are strongly encouraging people affected by the fire to log on and register their interest. It’s a simple process and commits you to nothing,” Mr Andrieri said.

“(This) is the start of the process of assisting us to understand the extent to which individuals and businesses have suffered loss and damage as a result of the Hazelwood fire.”

Mr Andrieri said a class action was among a range of compensation options being explored in conjunction with community group ‘Voices of the Valley’, which was formed during the 45-day mine fire which covered Morwell in waves of coal ash.

VOTV president Wendy Farmer said there was “definitely” grounds for a successful class action.

“There is still a lot of people out there that need financial help. There are people out of pocket by quite a lot of money; there are people who haven’t claimed any cleaning up on their insurance because they can’t afford to pay the premium,” Ms Farmer said.

“Morwell still has people seven months down the track where nothing’s been done, and these people need some sort of avenue to get their houses cleaned.”

Ms Farmer cited an 80-year-old woman in Morwell’s north whose house was still “full of ash and dust”.

“This poor woman can’t even contemplate starting the job of cleaning up, she’s really not in a good way and these people aren’t being helped,” she said.

“People are still out of pocket; a class action needs to address these things and make people responsible for what’s happened, because nobody has taken responsibility, so it will be interesting to see what comes out of this.”

Ms Farmer said the class action investigation would be discussed at a public meeting on 14 September at the Italian Australian Club in Morwell at 2pm.

She said the meeting would also provide a chance for the community to comb through the pending outcomes of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, and form a priority list for which Inquiry recommendations should be implemented first.

For more information about the class action investigation, visit www.mauriceblackburn.com.au/hazelwood or phone 1800 643 211