Weerite Pomborneit Black Saturday fire case adjourned

THE Black Saturday class action over the Weerite Pomborneit fire will return to court next month.

Final expert evidence was presented to Warrnambool Supreme Court last week with Professor Alex Baitch submitting the Colac Camperdown line had clearance issues in its original design. 

“From my planning perspective in years in the industry, this line would have actually been replaced years ago with a new construction,” he said. 

“I mean, the reports that we have seen have identified that some of the insulators are not up to it. There’s all sorts of clearance issues on that fundamental original design. 

“So from the normal perspective, one would have replaced that line and rebuilt it as a modern line.

“So what we are looking at here is a process by which it’s been progressively repaired from time to time on an incident basis, rather than actually having a fundamental look and doing a proper redesign and rebuild and utilising the bits that you can effectively reutilise.” 

When Powercor electricity network asset manager Vince Power was cross-examined by counsel representing the plaintiff Gerard Dalton and asked if the Colac-Camperdown line was exposed from time to time to extremely turbulent wind conditions, Mr Power said it was difficult to answer because every line in Powercor’s network was exposed to extremely turbulent wind conditions from time to time.

Expert witness for the plaintiff, Henry Hawes told the court reports of clashing prior to Black Saturday were indicative of a problem on the Colac-Camperdown line. “Most of the work that’s reported in these log sheets seems to indicate we have a culture of just to fix the immediate problem.”

When cross-examined by counsel representing Powercor, David Curtain, and asked if the events could be caused by a bird or foreign object, Mr Hawes agreed it could.

More than 1000 hectares was burnt in the February 7, 2009 fires. The trial was adjourned until November 12.

cquirk@standard.fairfax.com.au

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