Gunns Ltd has failed to appeal a Supreme Court decision in Hobart

Former timber giant Gunns Ltd has failed to successfully appeal a ruling that the company should not be granted damages for a water license application that took about six years to be addressed. 

The company’s receiver applied to construct and fill a $750,000 dam at Tamar Ridge Wines, near Evandale, in 2005. 

Construction of the 295 megalitre irrigation dam occurred between 2008 and 2010 but the company was notified in 2011 that, under the Water Management Act, only 16.6 megalitres of water would be allocated for the dam.

In an initial trial in 2015, Gunns Ltd unsuccessfully argued the minister in charge of administering the water license had a duty of care to approve or deny the license within a reasonable time. 

The former company attempted to sue the state of Tasmania for $645,260 in damages incurred as a result of the delay.  

An appeal to overturn the trial ruling was lodged earlier this year and Chief Justice Alan Blow ruled in the Supreme Court in Hobart on Wednesday that no duty of care existed and the former company’s attempt to sue the state had no grounds for appeal. 

In the grounds for appeal, Gunns argued that, historically, the former company had never been refused a water license in instances where a permit to construct a dam had been approved. 

In his findings, Justice Blow acknowledged it was not uncommon for Gunns to begin construction of a dam while a water application was still pending and it could have foreseen that the dam may be built with the determination an application would eventually be acquired. 

He also ruled that while a potential financial loss as a result of the license outcome could have been foreseen, it was not in the public interest to rush a decision. 

The business Tamar Ridge Wines was sold in 2010 and Gunns Ltd was liquidated in 2013. The former forestry enterprise lost about $250,000 on the sale of the winery. The loss has been attributed to the license. 

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