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Wind farm information day turns ugly in Rye Park

Wind farm proponents have accused local wind farm protesters of shameful behavior, including violence, theft and urinating on an employee’s car.

A group of about 60 Rye Park and Yass Valley residents whose land lies next to or near a proposed wind farm, attended the open information day on Tuesday, September 22.

The meeting which was planned as an information session turned violent and police were called after protesters scuffled with security and Trustpower staff at the Rye Park hall.

Although it was scheduled from 1pm until 8pm, Trustpower employees closed the meeting two hours early, after one resident allegedly stole a Trustpower USB stick and made violent threats after being restrained from entering the building.

The Bookham resident, Mr Mark Glover, told the Tribune that the incident occurred when he accused Trustpower of lying to his neighbours.

“I did accuse them of lying because he was saying the community supported the proposal,” Mr Glover said.

“So I asked the room of about nine residents to raise their hands if they supported it, none did and then asked those who opposed it to raise their hands, they all did.

“That is 100 per cent opposition in the room.”

Another Yass Valley resident, Mr Jim Field who is in his late seventies, entered the hall saying he was unable to put up his posters opposing the development because he was stopped by the two security guards outside.

Mr Glover intervened on Mr Field’s behalf and one Trustpower Wind development officer, Michael Head, said he could display the posters outside, not inside the hall.

The two residents went to walk outside to put up the posters and were then refused entry back into the hall.

“That’s when they got physical, four people restrained two residents,” Mr Glover continued.

“I just kept saying that it was a public meeting and they couldn’t stop us from going in. They effectively held us back and I think Jim had three people holding him at one point.

“You can’t go around man handling 80-year-old pensioners, but unfortunately there was no one else there to see what happened except me and Jim.”

Mr Glover denied allegations that he threatened Trustpower’s employees.

Trustpower Wind Generation development manager Rontheo Van Zyl said he was personally threatened with violence and described those involved as an unruly group of protesters.

“It is disappointing almost beyond belief that this sort of thuggish, intimidatory behaviour should be tolerated by the community,” he said.

“We believe that people have every right to protest against wind farms, or anything else for that matter, but not in a way that threatens people, intimidates them or prevents them from finding out more information.”

Although Mr Glover stated that it was only himself and Mr Field that was involved in the incident, Mr Van Zyl said that around 10 protesters had arrived at around 5.30pm and started shouting and harassing Trustpower staff and its team of consultants, who were there to provide information.

Mr Glover said that it was disconcerting that Trustpower had employed the security guards at a public meeting in the first place. However, Mr Van Zyl explained that they were employed because Trustpower’s employees had received threatening phone calls.

“I must emphasise that at no point did any Trustpower staff or its consultants restrain or take any physical action against the protesters, and they remained calm and did their best not to respond to this outrageous behaviour,” he said.

Mr Van Zyl said that Mr Field had grabbed him by the throat, which was the instigator for him to call the police, which Mr Field denied.

“This is the first time we have ever had to call the police or shut down a meeting,” he said.

“It is shameful that this group should seek to prevent that from happening rather than engaging in meaningful discussion. Our main concern is that the USB stick that was taken has residents names and addresses of people seeking more information, now they have these contacts.”

Mr Van Zyl said members of the group had also been seen attempting to urinate on one of Trustpower’s vehicles.

“This sort of disgraceful behaviour is not typical of the broader community and only further serves to illustrate that this is a small, unruly group who prefer thuggish intimidation to open information and debate.”

Although police attended the scene, no one was charged over the incident.