Bentley battle plan revealed

Monday morning at the Bentley Blockade. Photo : Mireille Merlet-Shaw/The Northern Star
Monday morning at the Bentley Blockade. Photo : Mireille Merlet-Shaw/The Northern Star Mireille Merlet-Shaw

GOVERNMENT documents have revealed up to 800 police officers were to be sent to Bentley from May 19 to "ensure public safety" and enable Metgasco to move its drill rig on to the site.

And Metgasco wouldn't have been charged for the police operation, scheduled to continue until June 7.

The documents also acknowledge the strong groundswell support for the protesters, including support from the mayors of Lismore, Kyogle and Tweed.

Senior government officials warned the safety risk to the public and police during the installation of the drill rig would be "high to extreme".

The situation was described as an "unprecedented public order challenge" requiring a "significant deployment of police officers".

The information was released under the Government Information (Public Access) Act.

These documents were provided exclusively to The Northern Star last night.

A briefing to the Premier in early May by the chief executive of the Ministry for Police and Emergency Services expressed concern about protesters' "sophisticated strategies not previously observed by police".

"These include a concrete bunker where protesters lock-on to an anchor device, buried and wire obstacles, an aerial drone equipped with CCTV and an SMS warning system," the brief states.

A NSW Police Force briefing also identified "many risks", including a "catastrophic" risk of litigation.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said the documents showed the NSW Police force was to be "used as an exceptionally powerful and expensive private security operation for a resources company".

"Any accountable democratic government would take that as a sign the industry should not go ahead," he said.

"We now also know that long-suffering NSW taxpayers were going to be footing the bill to keep this industry alive, with no plans for Metgasco to be charged."


Looking Back

METGASCO's licence to drill at Bentley was cancelled by NSW Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts on May 15 - just four days before the police operation was due to start.

And according to an update from the NSW Police to the Premier, dated May 13, Operation Stapler was still on track just two days before the shock announcement.

Operation commander, Assistant Commissioner Jeff Loy, had "extensively consulted" with internal and external stakeholders. In the days before Metgasco's licence was cancelled, several important meetings were scheduled.

Planning managers were to meet on May 13, with Assistant Commissioner Loy to meet with the Premier the following day. The operation's incident management team were to travel to the Northern Rivers on May 16 with activity to have taken place on May 17.

Topics:  bentley blockade editors picks metgasco

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