Port Stephens community leaders have appealed for calm as news of the proposed $86 million class action settlement filters through the community.
While the settlement, part of a $212.5 million federal government payout to three PFAS affected communities has been hailed as a world-first legal victory, some residents have expressed disappointment about how much they are likely to receive.
The Federal Court is yet to sign off on the proposed compensation package for losses to property values incurred as a result of PFAS contamination.
If divided equally, the 500 members of the Red Zone class action would receive $172,000 each, before legal and administrative costs are deducted.
An independent administrator is currently assessing individual losses that will determine the size of members' payouts.
Many class action members had indicated they were hoping the outcome would allow them to leave the area.
But, based on the overall settlement amount, many have concluded their dreams of a new life have been shattered.
"It's totally unfair," Ryan Baker, who estimates his Salt Ash property has halved in value, said.
"It's pathetic, I at least thought we would be compensated for the loss of value on our property."
Another similarly affected Salt Ash resident, Robert Roseworne, said members had been kept in the dark about the mediation process.
"We were not asked by anyone about what we thought about the deal," he said.
"As it stands the proposed figure won't even be enough to cover to the mortgage amount on our place. We are going to be stuck on a piece of contaminated land."
Other members took to social media to vent their disappointment.
"Can't see how the lawyers settled for such a small amount and we had no say. Thought it was a class action," one said.
A spokesman for the lawyers said comment about the settlement could not be provided while the matter remained before the court. The Federal Court is likely to be asked to approve the settlement on April 6.
Meanwhile, Paterson MP Meryl Swanson, said several Red Zone residents had visited her office to express their thanks and relief that the process was over.
"These people have been to hell and back," she said.
She praised the class action's leadership group who had worked tirelessly to achieve a just outcome for their community.
"They have done the legwork on behalf of the community and deserve to be thanked," she said.
But she also acknowledged there were some who were disappointed.
"It was never going to be perfect, but the fact is this has been a win," she said.
"It provides a pathway for compensation as individuals or as part of a class action."
Port Stephens state MP Kate Washington urged the class action members to respect the court process.
"The battle is not over," she said.
"The settlement has still not been confirmed and there's a process that has to play out."
In addition to the class action settlement the government has announced that individuals or organisations that believe they have suffered financial loss as a result of PFAS contamination can make a legal claim for compensation via a PFAS Portal on the Department of Defence website.
Claimants must provide evidence of the nature and value of their loss.
They must also explain why they believe the damage is the result of Defence activities.
Claims will be assessed on a case by case basis.
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