The deputy chairman of the Electricity Commission was sworn at and abused yesterday as he fronted up to 180 Waikato farmers to explain the logic behind the commission's latest pylons decision.
At the meeting in Hamilton, Peter Harris tried to illustrate the technical aspects that led to the commission's "intention to approve" Transpower's construction of 400kV lines and associated pylons, from Whakamaru to Auckland.
Farmer David Rennie fired up the audience, encouraging people to take the opportunity to show how they felt during the presentation by Mr Harris.
Mr Rennie accused Transpower, the commission and the Government of Gestapo tactics, saying rural land owners were being treated "like the Jews of the 1930s".
"We are not here to listen to legal niceties and their polite explanations. They ... knew about the alternatives but are not interested at all," he said.
Later, in the hall, Mr Harris introduced his staff and board members.
When he turned to board member Graham Pinnell, who was yesterday disclosed as the lone dissenting voice within the commission, the audience stood and applauded.
During the presentation, Mr Harris was constantly heckled and shouted down. Two members of the audience swore and hurled abuse at Mr Harris. Accusations of political bullying against the commission were a common theme and people were not interested in a logical explanation.
One woman stood to explain she was there not only as a land owner but as a mother. "I'm concerned about the health of my young children, how do you calculate that?"
Mr Harris said such issues were the domain of Transpower and should be dealt with through the RMA process.
People responded by saying they were "going to fry" or be barbecued by Transpower's proposals.
New Era Energy was the farming lobby group behind the noisy protest.
Spokeswoman Christina Baldwin said people in the south Waikato remained "block opposed" to what Transpower was planning.
"There are no chinks in our armour, we're totally, totally opposed. If it has to get ugly it will.
"Pinnell has come out and said what we've said all along. Sustainable energy to Auckland has got to happen, but not with out-dated technology."
She said the alternative of another 220kV line was preferable to the 400kV proposal.
"What's been happening lately is the Government talking about renewables, about saving electricity with new light bulbs. Well that's what [former commission chairman Roy] Hemmingway was preaching two years ago."