Native Affairs – Flood victims may sue council

Environment Bay of Plenty is facing a class action potentially bigger than the leaky homes crisis.

Lawyer Matt Josephson was one of the main plaintiff lawyers in the leaky homes saga. He’s teamed up with QC David Heaney to lead a possible class action against the Bay of Plenty Regional Council on behalf of Edgecumbe home owners displaced by the April floods.

During their initial meeting last week Josephson said, “On the facts as we understand them, we think the owners of properties in Edgecumbe have a good chance of suing the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.”

Josephson has brought a geo-technical engineer onboard to assess whether Environment Bay of Plenty is liable for property damage in Edgecumbe. He says based on evidence so far it is likely the residents will win a class action.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Michael Cullen is leading an independent panel review of the flooding in April. The panel is investigating the technical reasons behind the Rangitaiki River stop bank breach on the 6th April. The review is expected to be released at the end of July.

Home-owner Lorraine Hale says the regional council should be held accountable for the flood wall breach which displaced more than 250 families in the small Bay of Plenty town. “I’m in there. I’m going to be one that is going to be putting their hand up and say go for it because at the end of the day they have got to take some responsibility,” she says. “We put them into those managerial positions to look after us and protect us, and if they’ve missed something then they need to be accountable for it.”

Native Affairs asked the Bay of Plenty Regional Council for their response to the potential lawsuit against them. Chris Ingle, GM of Integrated Catchments from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council says, “As far as we are aware, no legal proceedings have been initiated against us. You will appreciate that without knowing the details of any legal action, I can’t comment further.”

Two public meetings will be held at St Davids Church, Edgecumbe on Friday at 4pm and on Saturday, at the Edgecumbe Cosmopolitan Club at 10am.