Protesters at the Bentley Blockade in April.
Protesters at the Bentley Blockade in April. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Police should have stepped in at Bentley sooner: Metgasco

POLICE should have intervened at Bentley before the situation escalated to a crisis point where 800 officers were needed, Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson said.

Mr Henderson was commenting on government documents released last week describing the unprecedented tactics used by activists and the "high to extreme" risk to the public and police of any confrontation.

In hindsight, he said the best time for police to act was when protesters had first established a presence outside the proposed drilling site in January.

That was also when some activists started "abusing" the Grahams, who had signed a land access agreement with Metgasco for the Rosella exploration well.

"I think that was a mistake that we didn't act when the law breaking started initially," Mr Henderson said. "These protesters did not have to spend months of property damage, trespass, and intimidation of the Grahams."

The company had asked police to "go in early" and arrest protesters breaking the law, given Metgasco's past experience at previous blockades at Doubtful Creek and Glenugie.

Activist blockade tactics had become increasingly brazen and sophisticated as the anti-gas campaign gained public support.

At Bentley, installations included a concrete bunker occupied on a rotating shift, buried obstacles and road spikes, mass lock on devices, and the use of flammable liquids to prevent police from cutting any devices.

Mr Henderson was clear his views weren't meant to be a criticism of the police, whom he described as professional and consistent.

Instead, he condemned those protesters who led such strategies or passively supported them.

"The fact they were prepared to use flammable liquids … they were endangering their own lives and the lives of the police who uphold the law," he said.


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