Farmers take court action over oil spill

A GROUP of Indonesian seaweed farmers who were affected by an oil spill on the Montara oil field in 2009 have launched legal action in Sydney's Federal Court.

In August 2009, an accident at the oil rig off the coast west of Darwin caused oil and gas to spill into the ocean for almost three months.

More than 13,000 Indonesia seaweed farmers have launched action against the company that operated the platform drill rig, PTTEP Australasia.

Maurice Blackburn principal Ben Slade said the economic impact was disastrous for farmers.

"There was nothing that these farmers could do to protect themselves against the impact of an oil spill from Montara, and to see their hard work and the possibility of tertiary education for their children literally wash away, has been devastating," Mr Slade said.

In a statement, PTTEP Australasia said it believed the class action was misguided but that it respected the community's right to lodge the claim.

The statement said the company had always accepted responsibility and that it had commissioned a scientific research program. The company said the studies showed there had been no lasting impact on the ecosystems closest to Indonesian waters.