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Farmers across New Zealand have told the Government "enough is enough" and are giving it a month to address their concerns.
This afternoon, farmers, tradies and agricultural sector workers began protesting in cities and towns across New Zealand against several Government reforms.
Thousands turned out in the South, with huge turnouts in Gore, Dunedin, Alexandra and Wanaka.
Utes, tractors and farm dogs descended on towns across New Zealand, with a plane and four helicopters taking part in the Gore protest. In the aftermath of the protests traffic is moving slowly throughout Dunedin and in other parts of the South.
Orbus Dunedin said on Facebook Dunedin city buses were facing city-wide traffic Issues.
With the large number of vehicles stuck in traffic, buses were not able to service Princes St and many other streets heading north, the organisation said.
Many buses would instead run along the one-way network.
Motorway congestion was also causing issues, and travel would be delayed in both directions, it said.
Police estimated up to 200 vehicles were involved in the protest today as the convoy travelled from Mosgiel through town and north on to State Highway 1.
Police respected the lawful right to protest, and monitored the activity to ensure that both the participants and community were safe, police spokeswoman said.
There was traffic congestion along the way, as expected, but no significant issues and it had eased by the early afternoon, she said.
Positive reports were received of the protestors courteous driving behaviour, she said.
At the protests across the South there were placards and signs, including ones that read "No farms, no food" and one directed at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying "Stalinda NZ is NOT Russia".
The protests have largely been peaceful, but in Dunedin a supporter removed a sign from a climate change activist staging a counter-protest.
Protesters have been encouraged to bring their dogs to the "Howl of a Protest".
- Unworkable freshwater regulations.
- Proposed Significant Natural Areas policy penalising conservation-minded landowners.
- Over the top, one-size-fits-all state control.
- No respect for people, their privacy and property information.
- Overseas corporates buying up New Zealand farmland to offset emissions.
- Taxes on essential work vehicles.
- Out of control costs crippling small business.
- Unprecedented mental strain on people.
The statement says Groundswell NZ has ‘‘put a stake in the ground and said enough is enough’’ and calls for a halt to all environmental regulations including freshwater, indigenous biodiversity/significant natural areas, climate change, high country legislation and to remove the ‘‘ute tax’’.
The Government’s clean car standard puts a fee on high-emissions vehicles like utes to fund a discount on low-emissions vehicles.
The group warned it would take further action if the Government had not made sufficient moves to address its concerns by August 16.
Groundswell NZ were keen to promote workable solutions.
‘‘Our leaders are at the forefront of environmental action.’’
The protests are taking place in 55 towns and cities starting from Kaitaia to Southland.
In Gore about 1000 people and roughly 100 utes and tractors gathered at the A and P grounds ahead of speeches were are due to start about 11.45am.
Sheep farm owner Richard Byars, of Waikaka, said he and his wife Sarah Byars and their daughters Caitlyn (13), Marissa (12) and Erica (6) and their working dogs travelled in their ute in the protest to "stand up against the silly rules coming in".
"They are all a nuisance."
Mr Byars said the pressure from the new rules was impacting on the mental health of farmers.
"It's not good."
Farmers gathered in Mosgiel to travel to Dunedin to participate in the protest.
In Dunedin people gathered in the Octagon to support farmers before they drove past in a convoy as part of the protest.
Among them were six-year-olds Ari and Luke Wallace who are there to support their grandfather Peter Cashmere, a third generation Taieri dairy farmer.
They are holding up signs saying "I love poppa" and "Give farmers a go".
As the convoy started to drive through there was lots of tooting and cheers from supporters.
A counter protester standing in the middle of the road had a sign which read "No farming on a dead planet" ripped from her by a bystander.
More than 1000 people had gathered in Alexandra. Pioneer Park was full of farm vehicles, including utes and some tractors.
Many farm dogs were also present.
They would later be doing a procession through the centre of town at 2pm.
The protesters were being peaceful. A lot of families were present.
Hundreds of people and vehicles met at the Wanaka Showgrounds to protest.
The roads around Pembroke Park were completely jammed with traffic in both directions and lots of people tooted horns.
National MP Nicola Willis was there.
Hundreds of tractors descended on Invercargill.
Organiser Bruce Robertson estimated at least 500 people would attend the protest with about 200 hundreds of tractors and utes participating in the event.
“This is a response to the regulations that are unworkable and unmanageable.
“Farmers are finally standing up for their rights to have their voice heard and ask for more responsibility from the government.”
Invercargill man Gus Johnston attended the protest with his daughter Sarah Blair-Edie from Birchwood station and grandchildren Lex (5), Joe (3) and Florence (2).
"Something needs to change," Mr Johnston said.
Hundreds of tractors, trucks and utes have taken over Timaru streets today as South Canterbury farmers and tradespeople protest Government regulations.
Lines of vehicles are back-to-back travelling up Timaru's Port Loop Rd from the port, and along Evans St - State Highway 1 - from the north, before merging to ride in convoy down Timaru's Stafford St, the town's main shopping street.
Signs and banners outlining grievances are adorning many vehicles, and locals have turned out in support, many also holding signs and banners.
The Groundswell NZ Howl of a Protest at Pioneer Park in Alexandra today is one of 51 occurring throughout New Zealand.
Speaking to TVNZ's Breakfast Omakau farmer Jan Manson said this was the most vocal farmers had been in a long time.
"Generally rural people aren't excitable. It takes a wee bit to sort of get us rattled but I think that's what we're feeling now."
"The legislation that comes down from the top has unintended consequences, and I guess its almost embarrassing for [the] Government when they have to back track on issues that we could have told them right from the start don't work, and can't work in certain circumstances.
"I guess meanwhile for local communities we're finding that responding to this legislation is actually on top of our day job - for legislators it is their day job."
She said farmers were not "shirking the fact changes were needed but farmers and rural communities needed to be part of the process.
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, Ms Wethey said organisers were expecting 20 to 30 tractors and "a couple of hundred utes" but that number was a moving beast.
Meanwhile the ODT understands a convoy of tractors from Ettrick and Roxburgh is making its way to Alexandra.
Groundswell co-founder Bryce McKenzie, of West Otago, said there was a lot of mental anguish in the farming community, but he hoped protesters would stay peaceful.
He wanted those who turned up to be passionate, but not angry.
"If somebody is angry about what’s happening and they’re thinking about coming on a tractor, we’d ask them not to do that.
"We are speaking up for them, so they don’t need to be out there taking out their anger on anything."
Organisation of the event had gone "really well" and each of the co-ordinators had their areas under control.
Safety was the biggest concern among organisers and protesters had been given guidelines on how to minimise traffic and safety issues, he said.
Only time would tell if their message had got across, but he hoped the protest would be remembered for the right reasons.
Christchurch organiser Aaron Stark told John MacDonald on NewstalkZB their main concerns are around constant changes to regulations and the "moving of goal posts".
"We're fed up to be honest. Every farmer I know around here, around Canterbury, we're having the talk that maybe it's time to hang up the boots and find something else to do.
"It's getting to a point where we can't do it."
The Otago Daily Times reports that in Dunedin, organisers have decided it would not be safe for the protest to stop in the city so participants will drive through the Octagon, between about noon and 12.15pm, their dogs barking.
Federated Farmers national president Andrew Hoggard said there was a real risk of the agricultural sector being made out to look like "a bunch of fringe nutters".
A big concern was offensive signage being brought to the protests, which would do more harm than good.
In last week’s Federated Farmers newsletter, Mr Hoggard asked protesters to tell those who showed up with offensive messages to "bugger off".
Just turning up would have an impact and their message would be shared by presence alone, he said.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins was unable to attend the protest, but said if the protesters were looking for constructive engagement they should prevent the event being "hijacked by fringe conspiracy theories".
Communities in both rural and urban settings had a common interest in conserving the environment, but the differences lay in how to achieve that and how urgently.
Despite those differences, protesting was a proud tradition in New Zealand and "a privilege we should all cherish", he said.
"Metropolitan centres may be where the majority of votes exist, but we need a fair New Zealand which allows all Kiwis to thrive economically, environmentally, socially, and culturally," he said.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said he would be surprised if the protest was "anything other than an orderly event".
A police spokeswoman said the protest would be monitored to ensure everyone’s safety.
Dunedin participants of the protest will drive through the Octagon about noon.
They will then return to Mosgiel where former Invermay head Dr Jock Allison would give a short address and Groundswell NZ's statement on how it sees things would be delivered.
Even though protest vehicles would be keeping left and letting other traffic flow as smoothly as possible, there would still be significant disruption to the travelling public around Dunedin and Balclutha and more time should be left to get to destinations.
With NZ Herald