The pit crew of driver Steven Shepheard and his co-driver John McCarthy take a look at the damage caused by an object thrown by a protester on the final day of the rally in Kyogle.
The pit crew of driver Steven Shepheard and his co-driver John McCarthy take a look at the damage caused by an object thrown by a protester on the final day of the rally in Kyogle. Jay Cronan

Debate over rock throwing

REPCO Rally Australia has stood by claims rock throwing occurred during last week's event despite media reports to the contrary.

Rally organisers yesterday issued a statement clarifying what led to the cancellation of Special Stage 6 at Byrrill Creek last Friday and confirming they believed rally cars were stoned.

“It should be noted that on day three, rock-throwing did occur and a car was damaged as a result,” they said.

A spokesman for Mr Connelly said he had been misquoted in a report in Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald which quoted the Rally Australia organising committee chairman as saying rocks were not thrown.

Meanwhile, Tweed Shire councillor Katie Milne yesterday stood by her claims that no rocks were thrown.

She said: “I condemn any violent protest action, but how could I do that when there was no evidence that this (rock-throwing) happened.”

Below, are the full statements issued by Cr Milne and Mr Connelly.

MILNE SAYS...

A LOT of questions need to be answered in relation to cancellation of the Byrill Ck stage and the media reporting. People need to calm down about this until the truth is established and the police do their job.

The SMH now has a story entitled "Car Rally Rock Attacks False" yet our local media are still carrying on with the story. Garry Connolly of Rally Australia has stated to the SMH that "no cars were struck by rocks on Friday". Why did Garry let the media frenzy escalate for nearly a week before he clarified this?

Why has he not deigned to apologise for withholding this information and letting the vilification of the protesters go unchecked?

Why was there no qualification by media or police that this was all only alleged, and that according to Mr Connolly "there was never any evidence that cars were hit by rocks on that day"?

With all that police presence, dogs, trail bikes and helicopters with infra red technology, why was no one caught and not even a glimpse of the protester recorded?

Why was there not even a photo released of the supposed boulders? Surely these boulders did not elude the police also? It’s all too weird.

While 12 laws were nullified to force this race through, people are still innocent until proven guilty, unless we have become a totally fascist state.

I have been criticised for not condemning this incident. Of course I condemn any violent protest action, but how could I do that when there was no evidence that this happened. I was at Byrill Ck protesting peacefully and the first story I heard was that there were cows on the road. Then about eight other stories followed, including that one of the drivers said that Byrill Ck was too dusty and the closeness of the trees made it too dangerous to race. I tried to see Superintendent Michael Kenny on Sunday when the rock-throwing stories persisted but until Thursday I have had no reply.

The community appreciates the police assistance over the weekend, especially when rally supporters tried to attack protesters on the two incidents I witnessed. But why has this or the others incidents of which I personally witnessed of projectiles been thrown at protesters not been reported in the media?

Violent and abusive behaviour by rally supporters escalated after the inflammatory reporting of the Byrill Ck incident, with the worst report I heard of a car swerving into protesters at Kyogle where children were very close. Photographic evidence of a multitude of crossing double white lines by rally drivers was presented to councillors on Tuesday. This is extremely life-threatening behaviour, but there is no condemnation of this by our pro-rally councillors or Mayor.

The reporting has been very one-sided, hypocrisy abounds and it has been inciting hatred.

This has to stop. I am calling on all parties involved to stop adding fuel to the fire and damaging the reputation of the No Rally groups and myself.


CONNELLY SAYS...

ORGANISERS of Repco Rally Australia have set out the circumstances that led to the cancellation of Special Stage 6 on the first day of the FIA World Rally Championship event last Friday.

The CTEK East I stage at Byrrill Creek was stopped urgently and subsequently cancelled after rally officials received reports that large rocks or boulders had been placed on the road about to be driven by competitors and that rocks had been thrown at rally cars.

Rally Australia organising committee chairman Garry Connelly said there had been much debate about the incidents and it was necessary to set out the sequence that led to the stage being stopped.

He said that although the perpetrators had not been found yet, Rally Australia had never claimed they were representatives of the official No Rally group. The organisers described the events on Friday 4 September on SS6 as follows:

The Course Information car went through the stage commencing around 9.38 am, finishing around 9.55 am. The course was clear at the time.

The 000 Car commenced the stage around 9.53 am and after proceeding a short distance came across a number of rocks and boulders placed around a corner in the middle of the road.

It was the assessment of the crew of 000 that it would have been physically impossible for these rocks and boulders to have accidentally rolled on to the road.

The crew of 000 removed these rocks and boulders, the larger of which required two people to carry from the road.

It was the assessment of the experienced crew that had a rally car hit these obstacles serious damage would have been caused and it might well have involved an accident which could have caused injury to either the crew or persons nearby.

Car 000 then continued on through the stage and approximately 500 metres later came across another set of rocks and boulders, which they removed from the roadway.

Car 00 then followed and had to stop at around the same location, due to a person coming on to the roadway and blocking it.

This person proceeded to read what was apparently a prepared anti-rally message to the crew, who ultimately were able to move on and finish the stage.

Car 0 then entered the stage and reported that it had hit at high speed some fencing which had been dragged across the roadway, in the same location as 000 had encountered the rocks.

A number of koala signs also were found to be missing from this area of road.

Around this time, between Car 0 starting the stage and the first competing car starting at 10.37 am, a security marshal near the area where the rocks had been discovered by the 000 Car was told by people who said they were against the rally that they intended to throw rocks at the competing cars.

The security marshal moved to a location to report this to Rally HQ. However, the first and second cars had already started the stage.

At this time an onlooker who did not appear to be associated with the anti-rally group advised the security marshal that people had been throwing rocks at rally cars in this same area.

This information was immediately relayed to Rally HQ just as the third car was starting the stage.

In view of the prior confirmed actions, namely the placing of rocks and boulders on the road, the human obstruction of Car 000 and the fencing across the road encountered by Car 0, plus the rock-throwing intention advised to the security marshal, when the Clerk of Course received the report that rocks were actually being thrown, an immediate and urgent decision was required.

The Clerk of Course had no choice but to cancel the stage as she was not prepared to put any person at risk.

It should be noted that on day 3, rock-throwing did occur and a car was damaged as a result.

Additionally, there was another attempt to block a stage during the rally which was foiled by the rapid action of one of the 0 Car crews. This attempt could also have resulted in serious injuries to crew members.

Details of this attempt were provided to the police at the time. However, the organisers do not intend to make public the attempted method employed.

The organisers stress that they have no reason to believe that any of the above activities, some of which were dangerous and risked damage and injury, were carried out by the No Rally group and have never accused the No Rally group of involvement.

In all cases the police acted immediately in assisting the organisers.




Tweed rallies to help sick Caitlin

Tweed rallies to help sick Caitlin

Can you spare a few dollars?

How to save $200 on your electricity bill

How to save $200 on your electricity bill

Slash your power bill and reduce your impact on the environment

Local Partners