West­ern Power emails in ev­i­dence to Park­erville fires class ac­tion.

Avon Valley Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Sarah Brookes

RES­I­DENTS who lost their homes in the Park­erville, Mt He­lena and Stoneville bush­fires will have their day in court next week, with the class ac­tion against West­ern Power start­ing in the Supreme Court.

Nearly 200 res­i­dents and prop­erty own­ers are part of a class ac­tion su­ing West­ern Power, con­trac­tor Thiess and the el­derly owner of a rot­ten and ter­mite- rid­den power pole that fell over in Jan­uary 2014, spark­ing a blaze that razed 57 homes and nearly 400 hectares of bush­land.

While the power pole was pri­vately owned and on the prop­erty of Gran­ite Road res­i­dent Noreen Camp­bell, En­er­gySafety found ter­mite de­posits near the top of it would have been vis­i­ble to a con­trac­tor con­nect­ing a cable in July 2013.

Slater and Gor­don group leader Rory Walsh said the fire was a wholly avoid­able ac­ci­dent.

“We say West­ern Power should have been in­spect­ing this power pole and had they done so the pole would have been con­demned and the fire avoided,” he said.

“We also say work car­ried out on the pole six months be­fore its col­lapse, and the work car­ried out next to the pole two days be­fore, by the sub­con­trac­tors Thiess should have led to it be­ing de­tected to be in a de­plorable state.”

Mr Walsh said ev­i­dence ten­dered this week in­cluded emails be­tween West­ern Power and the reg­u­la­tor that showed only some prop­erty own­ers were sent a brochure in­form­ing them that any pole on a pri­vate prop­erty “af­ter” the West­ern Power me­ter box was the owner's re­spon­si­bil­ity to main­tain.

“Mrs Camp­bell was one of the res­i­dents who never re­ceived the brochure and she said if she had known it was her re­spon­si­bil­ity, she would have had it in­spected,” he said.

“West­ern Power es­ti­mates there are at least 130,000 power poles on pri­vate prop­er­ties in WA but the real num­ber is un­known, as well as the age and con­di­tion of th­ese poles.

“We think it’s an ap­palling sit­u­a­tion that West­ern Power has this whole net­work of pri­vate poles which are at­tached to its net­work which it doesn’t in­spect or ac­cept any re­spon­si­bil­ity for.”

A West­ern Power spokesper­son said they un­der­stood it had been a dif­fi­cult time for ev­ery­one in­volved.

“How­ever, as the mat­ter is cur­rently be­fore court, it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for us to com­ment on spe­cific al­le­ga­tions raised about pri­vately- owned power poles on pri­vate prop­erty,” the spokesper­son said.

“All mat­ters and al­le­ga­tions raised dur­ing the trial will be ad­dressed, in de­tail, by our le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives.”

In a WA first, the trial is be­ing live- streamed on the in­ter­net, ac­ces­si­ble to the gen­eral pub­lic.

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