Setback as judge dismisses tower residents’ case

A judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit against the Victorian government for the demolition of Melbourne public housing towers, but residents will continue to fight.

Melbourne’s 44 high-rise public housing units are scheduled to be redeveloped by 2051, with five in Flemington, North Melbourne and Carlton expected to be replaced by 2031.

The project was a key pillar of the state government’s housing statement unveiled by then Premier Daniel Andrews in September, and would lead to the relocation of more than 10,000 residents.

The public housing tower class action lawsuit has been dismissed. (Getty)

Resident Barry Berih filed the class action lawsuit earlier this year, arguing that Victoria’s cabinet violated legislation when it decided to demolish the towers.

But the Supreme Court today dismissed the case, finding it had no reasonable prospect of success.

Judge Melinda Richards granted the residents permission to reconsider their case.

He suggested Homes Victoria should be at the center of the case as it had the power to act on the decision to demolish the towers.

“Something like a middle ground is missing (in the case),” he told the court.

“Yes, of course, the cabinet made the decision, but it is being clearly implemented.”

The judge’s decision came after the government requested that the case be dismissed.

Government counsel Liam Brown SC said he would claim costs from residents for the dismissal application, if successful.

Richards did not give detailed reasons for dismissing the case, saying he would publish them at a later date and postpone determining costs.

The future of the case will be decided on May 31, when it appears in court again.

Of the 484 residents captured in the class action lawsuit, 427 have already signed relocation agreements.

Melbourne’s 44 high-rise public housing units will be redeveloped by 2051. (9News)

Outside court, Berih’s lawyer, Louisa Bassini, said lawyers were satisfied with today’s outcome as the case would still stand.

“We are looking for the residents who live in these towers to have the opportunity to hear the reasons for the decision to demolish the towers and we have not been given that yet,” Bassini told reporters.

“So for us now it will be a matter of rethinking our arguments a little bit.”

Neighbors want the decision to demolish the towers to be reviewed.

Bassini said they were still hopeful the case would be resolved soon.

“It’s certainly a decision that many, many people are paying attention to and their lives depend on,” he said.

Berih, a resident of the tower for more than 26 years, said residents would continue to fight.

“This is the most important thing for the community,” he said.

Richards will publish his written reasons on May 10.