Victoria's largest court case is under threat because there is no courtroom in the state large enough for it to be held in.
The Kilmore Black Saturday bushfires class action is due to start next January, but with 20 barristers and 34 expert witnesses, no courtroom in Victoria is able to host the case, which is expected to run for six months.
In an unprecedented move, Justice Jack Forrest told the Supreme Court this morning that the court may have to lease accommodation in the CBD.
He said that unless the state government urgently allocated funds for such a move, the trial would be disrupted indefinitely.
"It is vital that the community have the appropriate opportunity to attend the trial," Justice Forrest said.
The County Court's ceremonial court is too small. The William Cooper Justice Centre, designed to be an overflow building for the Supreme Court, is also not large enough.
The largest Federal Court room in Melbourne is unavailable because of Federal Court work and the former royal commission hearing room is now home to the Coroners Court and is unavailable.
Justice Forrest said the trial was expected to run for six months to determine liability.
He said that if liability for the fires was established, there could be years of more hearings to determine further liability and assessment of damages.
The class action has thousands of group members and the state government has known of the case for 2½ years.
"To proceed [with the class action], the court requires an urgent commitment from the government to make a courtroom available for the trial," Justice Forrest said.
"The chief justice tells me the response so far has been positive, but I cannot underestimate the urgency of the commitment to create a courtroom space. I will have to stay indefinitely [the case] until we have suitable facilities."
Justice Forrest said a fitting-out of accommodation would take up to four months.
A suitable site had been found but the court was waiting on the government to inject extra money, he said.
Earlier this year, Chief Justice Marilyn Warren told The Age that the Supreme Court desperately needed more room and a more modern facility.
The Age also highlighted that many of the state's courts lacked the space to do their work properly.