UPDATE, Thursday, 10.45am:
The Supreme Court compensation case involving victims of The Sisters/Garvoc St Patrick's Day and electricity giant Powercor has been settled.
Mediation on Wednesday involving barristers for the victims, Powercor and asset inspection service Electrix led to the confidential deal.
The settlement came after it was discovered in cross-examination of a Powercor official that a secret explosive maintenance report existed dated October 28 this year.
Powercor had to provide the report to solicitors for the victims by 3pm Friday. It was sent at 2.59pm.
Details of the damning report were provided to the court on Monday, revealing the company knew there were major flaws in its maintenance systems.
That led to Powercor's barristers organising mediation/negotiations to be held on Wednesday in an attempt to settle the case.
This morning Hall & Wilcox Solicitors partner Matt McDonald, who led the no-cost compensation action for the victims, confirmed a settlement had been reached.
"I am pleased to confirm that we have entered into terms of settlement with Powercor and Electrix on behalf of our clients, the victims of the Garvoc bushfire," he said.
"The terms of the settlement must remain confidential pending the court's approval of the Maddens Lawyers, Warrnambool, class action settlement.
"However, our clients are very pleased to have secured a settlement and recognise this as an important milestone in their recovery from this terrible fire," he said.
The Sisters dairyfarmer Jill Porter has led the charge to push for an overhaul of Powercor's maintenance and infrastructure management since electricity assets caused four bushfires in the south-west on St Patrick's Day last year.
"The insurance companies, IAG, QBE and Allianz along with representing solicitors Hall & Willcox, have done an outstanding job representing us," she said.
"I believe they have at all times held our best interests at the fore, while also demonstrating much compassion, kindness and respect of our trauma.
"We are fortunate to have had a great team," she said..
Calls and emails have been made and sent to Powercor and Electrix to give them an opportunity to comment.
Tuesday: An explosive secret Powercor report reveals the electricity giant knows it has a flawed pole inspection regime for its ageing system and doesn't investigate or report all its pole failures.
The existence of the reliability centred maintenance report dated October 28, 2019, only came to light during cross-examination of Powercor's maintenance chief Matthew Settle during a damages case in the Supreme Court late last week.
There are 189 victims of The Sisters/Garvoc bushfire taking action for compensation against Powercor and inspection subcontractor Electrix after a rotten, termite-ravaged wooden pole snapped on St Patrick's Day last year sparking the blaze.
Barrister for the victims Francis Tiernan, QC, called for the secret report to be provided during hearings last week and Powercor was given a deadline of 3pm Friday.
Judge Timothy Ginnane was told the report was provided at 2.59pm. Barristers for the victims examined it over the weekend.
The report is so damning that Powercor's barristers have now organised for negotiations to be held on Wednesday in an attempt to settle the case.
It was revealed on Monday during the hearing that the report said there had been 384 pole failures and Mr Tiernan called for details of all those incidents during the past decade to be provided.
The report says mountain grey gum poles, like the 54-year-old pole No. 4 on the Sparrow Spur line which caused the bushfire at The Sisters, need to be inspected more frequently once becoming 50 years old.
The court was previously told the pole was visually checked four months before the fire in an inspection estimated by a victim's barrister to have taken as little as 90 seconds.
Five other nearby poles were later removed by Powercor and found to be in similar decayed conditions.
That was after The Sisters dairyfarmer Jill Porter organised independent testing of poles on and near her property that found pole No. 2 on the same line could be seen-through, such was the decay.
According to testimony in the case, the secret report said data "indicated the inspection process was not adequately detecting or managing a condition-based problem, a small but important portion of the time".
It has also been found the reliability centred maintenance review was to be conducted every five years but the report dated October 28 this year was the first sine 2005.
Mr Settle, Powercor's maintenace chief, told the court the company had changed good wood pole standards and inspection regimes to appease community unrest after four main bushfires were caused by electrical infrastructure in the south-west on St Patrick's Day last year.
The electricity giant also undertook an audit of 19,000 poles across the south-west and found no systemic issues.
Independent regulator Energy Safe Victoria also conducted an audit which found the Powercor system was "fit for purpose".
Mrs Porter on Tuesday said that was now clearly not the case and called on Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio to step in. She also called for the secret Powercor report to be publicly released.
"ESV has again proven to be a completely ineffective regulator overseeing an electricity distributor which has been caught out trying to hide its own highly damning report," she said.
"We, the victims of bushfires started by Powercor's electrical infrastructure, have repeatedly called for action from Ms D'Ambrosio and she has so far done nothing to ensure another pole doesn't snap.
"Surely now something has to be done about Powercor by the state government, in line with the Black Saturday bushfire royal commission findings, to do everything possible to make communities like mine safe."
A spokeswoman for Ms D'Ambrosio said it would be inappropriate to comment because the matter was before the courts.
Powercor has 567,000 poles, most more than 50 years old and have reached their life expectancy.
In 2017 the company put in 1153 new poles - a fraction of one per cent.
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