Class action over gas a possibility

THE timber industry will seek the support of other industry groups in launching a proposed joint class action over losses from the state's gas crisis, if an official report into the explosion at Varanus Island cites negligence as the cause.

The crisis, which cut the state's gas supply by a third, affected a wide variety of businesses across the state, including a large number of timber industry members.

A report by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority will be released soon, with its findings handed to new Energy Minister Peter Collier, who is expected to make the findings public.

Forest Industries Federation executive director Bob Pearce said he and his members were preparing themselves for discussions about compensation should the report find that the explosion could have been avoided.

"We don't anticipate the report to be handed down for a while so that's why we're using this time to get ourselves ready," Mr Pearce told WA Business News.

"Some of my members have lost substantial amounts of money as a result of this and if someone is to blame they should be doing something about it.

"We'll go and talk to them about what they are going to do to make up for our losses.

"The figures easily run into the millions."

Mr Pearce said some businesses, like the harvesting companies that cut down the trees in the pine plantations, had cut staff and lay-off machinery.

"Once the report is released I'll gather all of my affected members together and get a view about what we think we should do and then I'll go back to CCI to call a meeting of all industry associations" he said.

"Then we can pool our information and our resources, go and talk to whoever is held by the report to be responsible, if anybody is, and then see what we can achieve together through combined organised negotiations.

"If that doesn't produce a result, we'll look at other options.

"A combined class action is certainly on the table, but I guess our hope would be to be able to negotiate something rather than get involved in legal action. Any way you look at it legal action is going to cost millions of dollars and time."

First indicators from other industries about a joint class action seem positive.

"There was general support from the other industries," Mr Pearce said.

"I would expect everyone who made a loss would be on board but I don't want to speak for the other industry associations."


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