HUNTER Olympic equestrian coach and rider Heath Ryan is one of more than 500 people launching a class action against the federal government over the 2007 equine flu outbreak that devastated Australian horse industries.
Lawyers for those affected by the outbreak say the government failed to implement quarantine and biosecurity measures that would have prevented the disease from infecting horses in Australia.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn said yesterday it would lodge a class action in the Federal Court in NSW ‘‘within months’’.
Ryan, who coached at Olympics in 1996, 2000 and 2004 before competing in Beijing in 2008, said he would be joining the action, saying the outbreak had had a critical impact on his livelihood.
‘‘It was a massive disruption to us and completely cut off all of our income streams during that time,’’ Ryan said.
‘‘I host coaching clinics around the country, but all of those were cancelled.
‘‘I also make a living breeding and selling horses, but with the outbreak of [equine flu] that was no longer possible.
‘‘I also believe that the equine influenza outbreak affected the hopes and chances of young Australians who wanted to participate in overseas equestrian events.’’
Ryan, who was based in Lochinvar in 2007, said it took more than a year for business to return to normal after the outbreak.
He said he hoped the class action would highlight ‘‘how critical it was that the federal government didn’t manage and contain an exotic disease that was absolutely containable’’.
He also said those affected by the outbreak deserved remunerations paid to them by the government.
Lawyers claim the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service is accountable for the substantial losses suffered by horse industries after the disease sidestepped Australian quarantine then halted horse movements across the eastern seaboard between August 2007 and January 2008.
‘‘The failure by the [inspection service] to have even basic measures in place to prevent a major outbreak of the disease caused hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and job losses,’’ Damian Scattini, of Maurice Blackburn, said.
The class action will be open to eligible individuals and businesses who suffered economic loss as a result of the outbreak.