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Farmer action group Groundswell held protests against several Government reforms in nearly 60 cities across New Zealand on Friday.
Event co-ordinators read the same statement, listing the group’s concerns as:
- 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 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 said ‘‘enough is enough’’ and called for a halt to all environmental regulations including the removal of the ‘‘ute tax’’.
The Government’s clean car standard puts a fee on high-emissions vehicles to fund a discount on low-emissions vehicles.
Groundswell NZ co-founder Bryce McKenzie and Laurie Paterson were among the more than 1000 protesters in Gore.
Mr McKenzie, of West Otago, said the support across New Zealand was ‘‘humbling’’.
Mr Paterson, of Waikaka, said the size of the protest was ‘‘quite amazing’’ considering it had no funding and was promoted by word-of-mouth.
Gore protest organiser Logan Evans, of Otamita Valley, speaking to a large crowd at Gore A&P Showgrounds, said the ‘‘poorly thought out, poorly implemented regulations have pushed us all to the point that we stand here today and make history’’.
A procession of tractors, utes and horses travelled from the showgrounds about 2km north to central Gore.
A Tiger Moth, top-dressing plane and four helicopters flew overhead.
Hundreds of people lined the street applauding the convoy, giving the protest a parade feel.
Sheep farm owner Janet Humphries, of Charlton, said she and her husband Lloyd drove their tractor in the protest to stand against the Wellington bureaucrats making rules for an industry they knew nothing about.
‘‘It’s totally ridiculous.’’
Hobby farmer Dana Turnbull, of Gore, and her husband Martyn and their children Austyn (14), Bain (11) and Gus (9) travelled in their ute in the protest to ‘‘share their disgust about the new policies and procedures’’.
Sheep farm owners Richard Byars, of Waikaka, said he and his wife Sarah Byars and their daughters Caitlyn (13), Marissa (12) and Erica (6) drove their ute in the protest to ‘‘stand up against the silly rules’’
The pressure from the rules was impacting on the mental health of farmers, Mrs Byars said.
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said he appreciated the protesters’ concerns.
‘‘But we also need to keep the commitments we have made to make rivers clean and swimmable, address climate change and fix our planning laws.
‘‘As a country we can’t stand still. If we want to make sure our exports continue to fetch a high price and are highly valued we have to make progress on these challenges that New Zealand and the world faces or our competitors will move ahead of us.
The Government planned to work in partnership and build consensus with farming leaders on the issues to ensure farmers and rural communities were supported through the change.
‘‘So they can be well positioned for the future.’’