Former council chair cleared of assault — Birchfield unapologetic

3:31 pm on 6 November 2023
Former West Coast Regional Council chairman and gold miner Allan Birchfield.

Former West Coast Regional Council chairman Allan Birchfield has been cleared of an assault charge. Photo: Supplied

Former West Coast Regional Council chairperson Allan Birchfield says he is still fit to sit at the council table after an assault charge against him was dropped.

Birchfield was charged in June with assaulting his brother with a weapon - a motor vehicle - and trespassing on the Birchfields' coal yard at Kaiata.

The High Court lifted the name suppression on 1 November following applications by The Press.

The assault charge followed accusations Birchfield had 'clipped' his brother at the Kaiata coal yard on 1 May, while the civil trespass charge alleged he repeatedly returned to the yard over a fortnight later, despite a two-year trespass order.

In the Greymouth District Court on 30 October, Judge Quentin Hix withdrew the assault charge, with police consent, but declined to dismiss the trespass charge.

After his name suppression was lifted, Birchfield said he would continue to fight the civil trespass charge because his name had been on the title of the Kaiata coal yard for 45 years.

Despite what had happened, he said he was "resilient" and "would be proven right".

He said he was not too upset about his name suppression being lifted given the assault charge had now been dismissed, but with all that had happened, it did feel like he had been "a bit under attack".

"But I'm good."

In June, Birchfield successfully argued for interim name suppression on the basis of potential reputational damage.

Since then, the West Coast 'grapevine' has been lively about what was alleged to have happened.

On the morning of 8 August, a visibly upset Birchfield said he had just been told of the application to remove the suppression order. That call came just as he headed into a code of conduct hearing to defend himself at the regional council.

"We did tell them we were going to challenge the events, and we had video footage which proved my version of events - that the assault didn't occur," Birchfield said last week.

He said he stood by his decision to remain on the council, after being formally censured on 8 August by his fellow councillors and ordered to apologise.

However, given all that had been alleged at the council, he said he did not believe he had anything to apologise for.

"I feel I have done nothing wrong ... I'm perfectly suited to represent the people on the West Coast."

The code of conduct hearing related to two accusations levelled against Birchfield - allegedly leaking privileged information relating to the employment of previous chief executive Heather Mabin, and then an alleged assault against another councillor, Frank Dooley.

Frank Dooley (left) talks to Allan Birchfield about the rates issue at West Coast Regional Council, shortly before tensions flared.

Frank Dooley (left) talks to Allan Birchfield about rates at West Coast Regional Council, shortly before tensions flared. Photo: Greymouth Star/Brendon McMahon

Council chairperson Peter Haddock last week said he had not been told directly about the court case.

"I've only heard the rumours - I've only heard through the grapevine there were charges."

Until the civil trespass charge had been dealt with he would not comment further.

Haddock also declined to say if relations between the rest of the council and Birchfield had improved since he was censured in August.

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