LEGAL ACTION: The dredging machine in the Gladstone Harbour undertaking dredging in 2011.
LEGAL ACTION: The dredging machine in the Gladstone Harbour undertaking dredging in 2011. Contributed

Seafood industry pushes ahead with class action against GPC

MORE than 150 people involved in the seafood industry are moving forward with a class action against Gladstone Ports Corporation in regards to its 2011 dredging project.

Led by global firm Clyde and Co and Hervey Bay firm Law Essentials, the class action represents people and companies who say they were financially impacted by GPC's dredging of Gladstone Harbour.

Law Essentials director and solicitor Chris Thompson estimated the total claim was worth more than $150 million.

Mr Thompson claims GPC's dredging project and the disposal of sediment from the harbour in surrounding areas reduced the quality of water, and therefore caused the loss of fish, prawn and crustacean species and reduced the overall quality of seafood within the area.

GPC is fighting these claims.

"This is a claim for damages as a result of negligence or breaches of GPC's duty of care," Mr Thompson said.

Murphy Operator Pty Ltd, Tobari Pty Ltd and SPW Ventures Pty Ltd are the three lead plaintiffs in the case.

The class action is not confined to Gladstone, with people involved from the Sunshine Coast and Sydney.

Those claiming damages range from commercial fishers to seafood wholesale or processing businesses.

GPC has filed its defence and later this month Mr Thompson will exchange evidence with the company, to prepare for the next stage of the court proceedings, which are taking place at Rockhampton Supreme Court.

As the matter is still before the courts, GPC told The Observer it would be inappropriate for it to comment.

There was 18.5 cubic million tonnes dredged in the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project in 2011, the largest dredging operation to date inshore from the Great Barrier Reef.

Most of the soil was dumped in a reclamation area at Fisherman's Landing.

It was subject to more than 600 conditions from State and Federal governments.

The $545m dredging works and deepening and widening of channels in the Gladstone Port was funded by Gladstone's three LNG proponents.

The class action was made public in May 2017.

At the time GPC chief executive Peter O'Sullivan said any attempt at a class action over the dredging project would be a "waste of time".

Mr O'Sullivan said it would be the third class action from the fishing industry against the GPC.

"Given the previous decisions, a third class action seems a misuse of the court's time, resources and people's money," he said.


"Hundreds of reports and independent reviews were undertaken during the project, all determining that the dredging project did not negatively impact on the health of the Gladstone harbour."

But Mr Thompson maintained the plaintiffs had a "very strong case".