Newcastle harbour coal blockade: live updates | photos, video

5.30PM: Thanks for following the biggest coal protest in Newcastle’s history live with us. 

For more read Tim Connell’s report on Sunday’s protests here and Ian Kirkwood’s report here. Both stories feature photos of the day, with video from the sand and sea littered throughout the blog below. 

As a final note, the protest organisers appear to be declaring the event a success.

4.20PM: It may have been billed as a harbour blockade but the lion’s share of arrests were made on a river bridge. 

Police say 66 people were arrested as part of the Newcastle protests, including a 41-year-old man found suspended from a rope over a ship at Kooragang Island.

He was charged with enter enclosed lands and destroy or damage property. 

Three women were charged with abseiling from Stockton bridge at the Port Waratah coal loader. 

Two of them, 26 and 27, were arrested and charged with destroy or damage property and remain on enclosed lands. 

A 22-year-old woman was arrested and charged with remain on enclosed lands.

Separately a 25-year-old woman was arrested after scaling the MV Tangerine Island’s mooring lines at Mayfield. She was charged with climb on or attach to vessel without authority and not comply with direction by authorised officer.

A 35-year-old man who allegedly dropped the woman at the location by boat has been charged with assist person climb on or attach to vessel without authority.

His boat was seized, photographed and released back to him. 

A third person, who was a passenger on the inflatable boat, was arrested and later released pending further inquiries.

Police also charged a 39-year-old man with malicious damage and enter enclosed lands after he attached himself to a ship loader at Mayfield. 

A man, 50, was arrested and charged with operating a drone within 30 metres of an unassociated person at Kooragang Island.

All received police bail to face Newcastle Local Court on June 9.

The majority of the arrests occurred away from the harbour, with 57 protesters who occupied a bridge and blocked coal trains receiving field court attendance notices for remaining on enclosed lands. 

Operation Stellway, the police operation around the blockade protests, included officers from the Public Order and Riot Squad, Transport Command police, the Operations Support Group and Police Rescue. 

Water police used 20 vessels to control activity on the harbour.

Operation Stellway and Newcastle commander Superintendent John Gralton said police supported the right to protest but it was disappointing some protesters deliberately set out to flout the law.

4PM: Newcastle blockade organisers say more than 50 protesters have been arrested. 

A update says more than 200 kayaks entered Newcastle harbour for the blockade and more than 50 people were arrested and the coal rail line and Sandgate remains occupied after 65 protesters arrived earlier on Sunday.

“More than 65 protesters dressed in white overalls have blocked the coal line that connects the coal mines in the Hunter Valley with the port, with 50 currently arrested,” the group said in a statement,

“The group walked onto the rail bridge after first ensuring that rail traffic had been safely halted.”

Fairfax Media is seeking an update from police.


2.30PM: Musician Ash Grunwald, who performed aboard a boat in the flotilla on the harbour, explains to Ian Kirkwood why he supports the action. 

“I know people in Newcastle may be thinking about jobs but it’s going to end anyway,” he said.

“It’s time to jump off that ship.”

“Nothing’s simple but we need to work on getting away from fossil fuels.”

1.55PM: Newcastle Herald photographer Max Mason-Huber’s shared this footage from the water.

1.45PM: Matt Carr: Police confirm they are on scene at the Hunter River railway bridge where protesters are believed to be locked onto the rails. As previously reported, protesters say they will not move on. 

Protester Alana West, who posted a photo holding a court attendance notice, says police are issuing infringements at the scene rather than taking protesters to police stations.

Further details are also available about the arrests earlier today. 

A NSW Police spokeswoman has confirmed a 35-year-old man, the master of the inflatable boat seized at Selwyn Street in Mayfield, has been charged with assist person to climb on or attach without authority.

A 25-year-old woman has been charged after allegedly locking herself onto the MV Tangerine Island about 8.30am on Sunday morning. 

She was charged with climb on or attach to vessel without authority as well as allegedly failing to comply with direction from an authorised officer. 

A third man was arrested and released without charge. 

Separately, police has also charged a 39-year-old man with malicious damage and enter enclosed lands after he allegedly attached himself to a coal loader about 8am. 

1.40PM: Matt Carr The rail blockade continues, with reports that police are beginning to remove protesters from the scene.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation confirmed earlier that they were informed protesters were blocking the lines into Newcastle about 11am. 

Twitter’s @sdariol shared this shot of protesters dressed as Climate Guardia, or climate angels, lying on the tracks on Sunday afternoon. 

Photo: @sdariol

Photo: @sdariol

1.30PM: Matt Carr: The blockade is yet to encounter a ship movement. 

Newcastle Port Corporation’s shipping schedule shows four ships (the Reihou, Maizuru Kichijo, AAL Shanghai and Merlin Arrow) left between midnight and 5.20am.

The Artemis was the last to leave at 6.48am, with the Dampier Maru next on the list at 8.14pm on Sunday night after a conspicuous gap on the schedule.  

It will be followed a minute later by Hyundai Hadong (8.15pm) and then K Phoenix (10.06pm) and African Weaver (11.30pm). 

1.15PM: Matt Carr: Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter and Central Coast Scot MacDonald has taken something of a shot at the Newcastle blockade on social media.

Greens MPs and candidates have been prominent among the Newcastle blockade protesters, including party leader Richard Di Natale. 

Mr Di Natale told reporters on Horseshoe beach he was in Newcastle the day an election was formally called because “we stand with the community”.

“On a day when Bill Shorten is out at a mine kicking off this election campaign, we are saying no more new coal mines if we are to make a transition to a 21st century economy,” he said. 

Watch his full press conference below.

1.05PM: Tim Connell reports:

Ness Wiebford eschewed a more relaxed Mother's Day to bring three-year-old Leuca to the Break Free protest.

Ness Wiebford and Leuca, 3. Photo: Tim Connell

Ness Wiebford and Leuca, 3. Photo: Tim Connell

"It used to be about protecting the world for future generations, but it's already happening," Ms Wiebford said.

"Now it's about limiting the damage. I worry for her, heaps."

The day’s plan is clearly mapped out, as this Ian Kirkwood photo shows. 

12.50PM: Here’s a taste of what the protesters out on the water are seeing: 

12.20PM: Matt Carr reports:

Protesters blocking coal trains into Newcastle say police have attempted to move them on “but we will not be moved”.

A group of roughly 60 protesters have posted video and images of their occupation of a rail bridge, claiming they have cut off trains bound for Kooragang Island on Sunday.

A protester at the scene on Sunday. Photo: @mmm_brie

A protester at the scene on Sunday. Photo: @mmm_brie

It is unclear if any arrests have been made beyond four people apprehended after a woman locked onto a vessel on Sunday morning. 

An Australian Rail Track Corporation spokesman declined to comment on whether any trains had been stopped or delayed.

“I’m not going to comment on operation matters at this time,” he said.

“Obviously the police are the lead agency.”

Fairfax Media is seeking details from police on whether further arrests have been made.

Police apprehended four people early on Sunday after a woman locked onto a coal ship.

Officers seized a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, arresting the woman as well as the vessel’s skipper and a passenger. 

A fourth person was arrested for operating a drone in a populated area.

Port Waratah Coal Services has also issued a general statement about the protests:

“While Port Waratah respects the right of Australians to express their political views, we urge them in the strongest terms to conduct themselves in a peaceful and safe manner and not to enter private property.

Safety is always our number one concern.

Port Waratah’s equipment and machinery, most of which are automated or controlled remotely, can be dangerous for those who are untrained and unaware. It would be a tragedy if a protestor was injured or killed on site, or if the lives of workers or the police were placed in danger by the actions of a few.

There are also exclusion zones in place around vessels, even whilst at berth. These are in place to ensure the safety of members of the public, wharf workers and vessel crew. We ask that you respect these exclusion zones. Our very real concern is that someone will be seriously injured or killed if these warnings are ignored.

We remain committed to respectful, honest and transparent communication with the community. We aim to perform our activities in a manner which minimises impacts on the environment and the local community - not just because it’s the right thing to do but because this is the region in which we and our families live.”

Noon: The Pacific Climate Warriors, a group of protesters hailing from islands facing rising sea levels, have arrived at Horseshoe beach. 

Among them is Zane Sikulu, who spoke to the Herald earlier this week. 

11.50AM: It appears there is action elsewhere, off the water as well. 

Comment is being sought from the Australian Rail Track Corporation. 

Zane Sikulu at Horseshoe beach on Sunday. Photo:

Zane Sikulu at Horseshoe beach on Sunday. Photo:

​11.46AM: Twitter’s @heathwild captures the flotilla making its way into the harbour

11.40AM: Newcastle councillor Michael Osborne pushes off.

11.30AM: Helicopters soar over Nobbys as protesters begin to head out onto the harbour. 


The blockade begins. Photo: Heath Wild.

The blockade begins. Photo: Heath Wild.

11.10AM: Tim Connell reports:

Activist Jonathan Moylan, who addressed the crowd earlier, declines to go on record about legal advice given to protesters. 

“Civil disobedience has been used throughout history to achieve progress,” he tells the Fairfax’s Tim Connell (@TimConnell).


11AM: Tim Connell reports: Layo Nathan, 66, and Burt Nathan, 64, from Coffs Harbour are at their first ever protest in Newcastle on Sunday. 

Layo: “I just think it’s so obvious the damage that’s being done.

Burt: “It’s the damage to the reef, the temperatures on record and Turnbull’s ignored the problem in the budget.”

Judith Leslie, John Krey and Anne Maree McLaughlin have found themselves embroiled in an anti-coal campaign in their hometown of Bulga. They say people are changing their minds on fossil fuels.

“It’s a bigger issue than just our local one,” Mr Krey said. 

Layo Nathan, 66, and Burt Nathan, 64, of Coffs Harbour. Photo: Tim Connell

Layo Nathan, 66, and Burt Nathan, 64, of Coffs Harbour. Photo: Tim Connell

​10.40AM: Protest footage is emerging as marchers approach Horseshoe beach, where the flotilla is scheduled to launch onto the harbour at 11am.

Musician Ash Grunwald, who is performing in support of the protests, has also shared a glimpse inside his “floating bandroom”.

Four arrested in Mayfield lock-on: police 

Judith Leslie, John Krey and Anne Maree McLaughlin. Photo: Tim Connell

Judith Leslie, John Krey and Anne Maree McLaughlin. Photo: Tim Connell

10.25AM: Matt Carr reports

Police have confirmed four arrests have been made so far on Sunday morning.

A NSW Police spokeswoman confirmed a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was seized after a woman locked onto a coal carrier’s mooring line near Selwyn Street in Mayfield. 

The Marine Area Command arrested the woman as well as the skipper and a second male passenger. 

A fourth person has been arrested for operating a drone near a populated area.

Jonathan Moylan addresses the protesters

10.20AM: Tim Connell reports:

Protesters gathered in foreshore park, being briefed on safety and legal rights. 

“Legal observers” are wearing pink vests.

Activist Jonathan Moylan has addressed the crowd.

“If you see any kind of police-citizen interaction today, let someone in the legal team know,” he said. 

“Don’t start random conversations with the police.”

Moylan made headlines in 2013 after sending out a false press release in the name of ANZ Bank. 

But the hoax’s results were very real, prompting a $314 million slump in Whitehaven Coal’s share price.

Moylan was sentenced to one year and eight months jail but Justice David Davies ordered in July 2014 that the activist be immediately released on the condition he be of good behaviour for two years and $1000 bond.

Banners on display boast slogans including “4 degree threat, time to say no to new coal” and “Look Tony, we stopped the boats”.

10AM: Here’s a glimpse at some of the discussion on social media as #breakfree2016 protests in Newcastle begin in earnest.

9.30AM: PROTESTERS have begun their blockade of Newcastle harbour, with one arrest already made according to organisers Australia.

“One Break Free protester was arrested after occupying the anchor chain of the coal ship Tangerine Island moored at Carrington’s Port Waratah Coal Services coal loader,” the group said in a statement.

The full flotilla is now expected to begin about 11am. 

Photo: @leerhiannon

Photo: @leerhiannon

Protester Laura Hogan, who attended the morning’s protests, said she was acting because she felt the government was failing to move on climate change. 

“We are seeing the effects of climate change already and rather than turn away from these realities or be overcome with despair, I have chosen to act today to stop the export of coal,” Ms Hogan said.

“The need to act is urgent. Today we come together as diverse communities of people to demonstrate real leadership and real action. My actions today are driven by my determination to see an immediate shift to a renewable energy future.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale and Senator Lee Rhiannon are expected to join the protests.

Musician Ash Grunwald and Midnight Oil’s Rob Hirst have also thrown their support behind the cause.

Protesters assembled on Newcastle foreshore. Photo: Tim Connell

Protesters assembled on Newcastle foreshore. Photo: Tim Connell