Families could be in line for up to $3000 each in compensation if they join an insurance claim against the company that polluted Raetihi's water, lawyers say.
Residents spent two weeks on bottled and tank-supplied water after a 19,000 litre diesel spill at Ruapehu Alpine Lift's (RAL) Turoa base, contaminated the water supply on September 27. Drinking water in the town was turned back on yesterday.
Raetihi solicitor Jeremy Nash has approached a group of Christchurch lawyers involved in earthquake claims against the Christchurch City Council to act on residents' behalf in a collective insurance claim against RAl.
He said everyone in the township had "taken a hit" and as a group, Raetihi businesses and residents had the clout to be adequately reimbursed, with a group approach likely to be more successful.
Mr Nash, who had a law practice in Taupo for more than 30 years, said individual, non-business losses might average between $200 and $500 a claim, but would be wiped out by policy excesses.
But a general damages claim could not be quantified and could take into account emotional suffering and or inconvenience. He said the average claim could range from between $1000 and $3000 for a family.
"If, say, 350 households are involved in a general damages claim it has strong traction and ability for a competent person to negotiate with experienced commercial directors and insurers," he said.
Mr Nash said a group claim would provide RAL with a "fence-mending" exercise", by enabling the insurance claims to be resolved quickly.
The Raetihi township had demonstrated remarkable resilience to the water crisis but it had a big impact on people's lives, he said
Residents were being surveyed to see whether they were interested in a "representative resolution" against RAL, Mr Nash said.
"We're hoping our Christchurch contacts will do the hard yards and deal with RAL's insurers - as a group, we have clout."
The Ruapehu District Council and its insurance adviser, Aon, last week met a group of 20 Raetihi businesspeople.
Chief executive Peter Till said the council was keen to receive a copy or summary of any claim, regardless of whether they were insured, to help the council understand the overall size of Raetihi's losses.
Meanwhile, residents have formed the Raetihi Ratepayers and Residents Association to fight for a permanent clean water supply.
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