'Bloody annoying': Passengers caught up in protest

A passenger train trip was cancelled after anti-coal activists shut down the Dunedin Railway Station, but protesters say that was never their intention.

Eight members of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion were arrested after blocking a coal train across St Andrew St about 7.20am on Saturday.

The protest inadvertently caused the cancellation of the Victorian excursion train to Oamaru.

Protester Bruce Mahalski said the coal train carried 500 tonnes of coal to Fonterra’s Clandeboye factory near Temuka in Canterbury to turn milk into powder for export.

There were about 20 people on the tracks outside Dunedin Railway Station and north of the St Andrews St level crossing, both in front of and behind the train.

Other group members climbed on top of carriages and about 30 more were supporting the protest from the platform, he said.

Police keep the public off the tracks while Extinction Rebellion protesters halt a coal train at...
Police keep the public off the tracks while Extinction Rebellion protesters halt a coal train at the Dunedin Railway Station on Saturday. PHOTOS: LINDA ROBERTSON
The protest fell on the one-year anniversary of the group’s first action to stop a coal train at Dunedin Railway Station.

Since then there had been nothing but talk from KiwiRail and the Government, Mr Mahalski said.

The international climate conference COP26 had been a failure as well, he said.

"While they’re talking the earth is burning," Mr Mahalski said.

"I don’t like getting arrested, none of us do ... but somebody has got to do this."

He was arrested later in the day.

Others on top of the carriages were forcibly removed by police using a cherry picker while protesters on the platform cheered in support of the activists.

A police spokeswoman said police attempted to negotiate with the protesters. However the group refused to leave the area.

Eight protesters were arrested and charges were being considered, she said.

Otago Coast area commander Inspector James Ure said police respected the right to protest, but safety was paramount and the railway station was a working rail yard.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand personnel were also at the scene.

The morning Victorian excursion train to Oamaru, operated by Dunedin Railways, was cancelled as a result of the protest.

A passenger on the train said the disruption was "bloody annoying".

Waiting to leave on the Victorian Train to Oamaru are Ollie Ronald (10, left) and Jacob Terry (11...
Waiting to leave on the Victorian Train to Oamaru are Ollie Ronald (10, left) and Jacob Terry (11), of Invercargill, before the cancellation of the trip because of Extinction Rebellion protesters.
He had been looking forward to taking the train for months.

Some of the people he spoke to on board had travelled from the North Island to ride the train and he was unhappy their trips had been ruined.

Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML) chief executive Terry Davies said the cancellation of the train was disappointing.

Passengers would be offered refunds or could re-book for another trip, he said.

Before the excursion was cancelled, Mr Mahalski said the group did not want to halt the passenger train, but believed it to be ruse to get them off the tracks, he said.

Protester and media liaison Jack Brazil said the group communicated with KiwiRail the moment the protest began and had made it clear it would work with the company to prevent the disruption of other trains.

The cancellation was a "complete political move by KiwiRail" and there had been no issue with letting trains past during previous protests.

It was never the group’s intention to interfere with other trains and he "felt terrible" for the passengers on the excursion train, he said.

A KiwiRail Spokeswoman said all inbound and outbound train services from Dunedin were halted by the protest.

KiwiRail made no comment about the claims made by Mr Brazil.

The train was moved at about noon.

Otago Farmers Market manager Michele Driscoll said the protest had not disrupted the market.

 

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