Class action against Council over flooding events planned

Members of the Tuggerah Lakes community are planning a class action against Central Coast Council on behalf of all property owners who suffered loss or damage as a result of devastating flood events in February 2020 and again in March 2021.

The claim is that the damaging effects of the floods could have been avoided if Council had taken reasonable action sooner.

A Sydney law firm, King & Wood Mallesons, has been engaged to call for people to register their interest in participating in a claim against the Council.

At this stage, it is just a show of hands, so lawyers can assess the viability of a class action and whether it will be eligible for litigation funding.

The impacts of the floods are still being felt throughout the community, however, there may be hope for residents whose property has been damaged by these floods, with the prospect of a class action against Council.

The residents are focused on the Council’s Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan and the Council’s failure to manage the lake entrance in accordance with that plan and accompanying Council documents.

Under the Estuary Management Plan, the Council recognised that one of the benefits of maintaining flows through the lake entrance was the minimisation of flood risks.

At 9am on March 20, 2021, when severe rainfall had commenced, Administrator, Dick Persson, stated in social media that “the Entrance Channel remains open and crews are on the ground ready to respond”.

Residents considering the class action say whatever the Council did or not do that day and weekend proved ineffectual.

Flooding occurred again for the second successive year.

A local resident and business owner at the forefront of the class action stated that their motivation for bringing a class action against the Council was that “something needs to be done to change the way the Entrance is managed by the Council, or we may be facing another flood in a year’s time.”

The residents argue that the flooding of homes and businesses was easily preventable by the proper management of the lake entrance by the Council.

The Administrator, Dick Persson, recently published a report from coastal expert, Angus Gordon, about the two floods.

However, it seems that Mr Gordon was not given the Estuary Management Plan of the Council to consider as part of his report.

Mr Gordon states that, regarding entrance management of the lakes “it is not apparent that a formal entrance management policy currently exists”.

However, there is such a plan readily in sight on the Council’s website.

Apparently, no-one at the Council gave this plan to Mr Gordon.

Pat Aiken of Coastal Residents Inc wrote to the Administrator drawing this obvious error to the attention of the Administrator and demanding the withdrawal of the report.

No reply seems to have been received from Mr Persson, who is due to finish his role as Administrator shortly.

This report must be difficult to stomach for residents affected by the flooding who believe that the Council failed to manage the lake entrance in accordance with the Council’s own plan, not once, but twice, in the February 2020 and March 2021 weather events.

It is now possible for residents who experienced damage in the flood to register their interest in joining the potential class action.

Media statement, May 3
Erin Eckhoff, Senior Associate
King & Wood Mallesons, Solicitors