News

Revealed: Metgasco's 'missing' letters to ministers

A protester screams at Police at The Doubtful Creek CSG mining site.
A protester screams at Police at The Doubtful Creek CSG mining site. Patrick Gorbunovs

FOUR "missing" letters sent from Metgasco to the NSW Government requesting a stronger police presence at anti-CSG protests at Glenugie last year have been exclusively released.

Four separate ministerial offices failed to hand over the documents last month, following a freedom of information request lodged by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge over alleged "political interference" in police operations during the 2012-13 blockade.

Their contents can now be revealed.

Throughout the correspondence from December 10, 2012 to February 6, 2013, Metgasco's Peter Henderson requested greater police involvement including a "permanent 24-hour police presence" to stop illegal protest actions hampering the company's operations.

He wrote that "the consequences of Metgasco having to suspend its operations in response to a small, unruly opposition group would be devastating to resource development and energy supply in NSW."

In a letter dated January 23 - at the height of the Glenugie blockade - Mr Henderson took argued that "police's efforts to uphold the law are in effect let down by an excessively lenient legal system".

"From what we have seen… our judiciary show a marked reluctance to do more than release people with good behaviour bonds and without convictions against their records," Mr Henderson wrote.

Civil disobedience activity that disrupts traffic and land access, damages property and involves threats, intimidation and physical violence is not peaceful protest, it is breaking the law

Metgasco CEO, Peter Henderson

This sent a message to the community that law breakers "were heroes"; it did "little to discourage law breaking" and protesters were free to break the law "essentially with impunity".

Mr Henderson alleged that: "…staff have been subjected to death threats, ongoing harassment and intimidation, including tailgating staff when they return to their homes, and bomb hoaxes".

The letter dated February 6, during the height of actions against the relocation of the company's drill rig from Glenugie to Doubtful Creek, featured a witness statement from a Metgasco truck driver which recounted having four "feral" people "rocking the car, getting on the roof jumping up and down… and hurling abuse from all directions", while filming with cameras.

The driver wrote of being subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse and being followed by a white vehicle which tried to "box me in".

Peter Henderson, Metgasco CEO.
Peter Henderson, Metgasco CEO. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

The letters were sent to four ministers; the then Energy Minister Chris Hartcher, Planning Minister Brad Hazzard, Police Minister Michael Gallacher, and Justice Minister Greg Smith.

The ministers' staff could not produce the letters after the Greens David Shoebridge requested them via a GIPA (Government Information Public Access) request.

Mr Shoebridge had taken steps to investigate potential "political interference" by the NSW Government in police operations during the protests in late 2012-early 2013; his investigation followed the dropping of charges against protesters at Glenugie by Lismore magistrate David Heilpern last year, who labelled the charges an "abuse of the processes of the court".

Last week Peter Henderson also provided the NSW Government with new copies of the letters, saying he stood by his decision to appeal to the government at the time.

"Metgasco makes no apologies for bringing the situation to the attention of the NSW Government and requesting support for its lawful activities," he said.

"We were clearly writing to say we felt that law and order should be maintained, which is what the police do. We have a legitimate business, we've been a good citizen of the community for 10 years, and people should be able to have differing opinions without this ongoing intimidation."

Mr Henderson said he opted to release the letters in light of what is expected to be a volatile protest at Bentley next month; saying protest actions there were "a repeat" of the behaviour at Glenugie and Doubtful Creek in 2013.

"Civil disobedience activity that disrupts traffic and land access, damages property and involves threats, intimidation and physical violence is not peaceful protest, it is breaking the law," he said.

Topics:  coal seam gas, csg, metgasco, police




Chaos erupts in parliament over Lismore signage

Greens mayoral candidate Vanessa Grindon-Ekins at Lismore and Villages sign at Hinterland Way

The Lismore signage debacle on Pacific Highway mocked in parliament

Why our Lismore MP Thomas George backs the greyhound ban

Lismore MP Thomas George said he supported the government on its decision to ban greyhound racing.

"I said I would clearly not be crossing the floor"

Six arrested over spate of break and enters

A man and woman were arrested following a police chase last night at Blacksoil.

Police have made a number of arrests

Latest deals and offers

Johnny Depp 'deeply respects' Amber Heard

Celebrity

Amber Heard gives away $7 million settlement to charity

Byron Bay Brewery will reopen next month

ENTERTAINMENT: For years, the Byron Bay Brewery has been an important venue for local artists to showcase their creations.

It has been closed for six weeks of renovations

The true cost of 60 Minutes debacle revealed

It's a bill that would make even a silk tied barrister blush

Yann Martel on novels: "Like building cathedrals in the mind”

Yann Martel is a Canadian author best known for the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, an international bestseller published in more than 50 territories.

The writer of Life of Pi introduces his new novel in Byron Bay

This year 4 schoolboy outscores Aussies at Pokémon champs

He's now a celebrity in the schoolyard.

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

Investors eye Gladstone's $4m island with resort approval

UP FOR SALE: Turtle Island is on the market.

CHINESE and Sydney investors flag interest in Gladstone island.

Take a sneak peek at this $19m Whitsunday mansion

Mandalay House features a private helipad.

Mandalay is currently on the market with an asking price of $19m

Guess which Sunshine Coast suburb cracked the million dollar list?

This four-bedroom home at 26 McAnally Dr, Sunshine Beach was for sale for $7 million.

List of Australia's five most-expensive suburbs