Farmers turn out in droves to protest

Rally organisers Bryce McKenzie (left) and Laurie Paterson stand in the Gore A & P Showgrounds...
Rally organisers Bryce McKenzie (left) and Laurie Paterson stand in the Gore A & P Showgrounds car park where more than 100 tractors and their drivers converged to protest the freshwater reforms on Thursday.PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON
"Overwhelmed" is how Bryce McKenzie feels about the response to Thursday’s tractor rally in Gore.

About 100 tractors and other vehicles gathered at the town’s showgrounds and were driven down Gore’s Main St to protest the Government’s new freshwater policy.

The rally was organised by Mr McKenzie, of Pomahaka, and Laurie Paterson, of Waikaka.

Mr McKenzie said the numbers who attended far exceeded his expectations.

"Laurie and I thought if he brought one and I brought one we’d do something, but this is overwhelming," Mr McKenzie said.

The event had provided farmers with an opportunity to vent their feelings, he said.

"Farmers are frustrated and they need an outlet.

"They need to show how frustrated they are."

Mr McKenzie, Mr Paterson and Gore mayor Tracy Hicks spoke to the crowd of about 200 who gathered at the showgrounds.

"You guys rock," Mr McKenzie said.

"You feed multitudes of people, you fight the elements and all you get is criticism."

If the reforms were "workable", farmers would be the first to carry them out, he said.

"We’ve got people that actually don’t understand our businesses trying to tell us how to run them."

He said he had invited Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to spend some time with farmers as she was good at showing compassion during other disasters during her time as the nation’s leader.

"I challenge her to come and visit the disaster that is farming."

Mr Hicks said the regulations to do with water and its use were changing.

"Some of them are absolutely unreasonable."

Mr Paterson said the question was where to from here?

"Are we all just going to drive home from here today or can farmers unite and stand together against this unworkable rubbish?" Mr Paterson said.

He suggested several possible options.

"Farmers could refuse to get consents and just carry on even though they are risking prosecution.

"We could launch a fighting fund to take the Environment Minister to court for exceeding his authority."

When members of the audience were given the opportunity to speak, Waikaka farmer Brian Howden encouraged farmers to be united in ignoring the reforms.

Mr Howden said if farmers carried on farming as they had been the Government would be powerless to do anything about it.

"They can't put us all in jail and they can't fine us all," Mr Howden said.

Waikaka Transport truck driver Josh Brown drove his bulk fertiliser spreader to the rally.

Mr Brown said his company would lose work if farmers were not allowed to sow crops.

"We thought we would come and support all the farmers," he said.

Kaiwera farmer Jamie Chittock said throughout the world New Zealand was seen as a "clean, green sustainable farming environment".

"But our own Government don’t seem to see it that way… all the negativity towards farmers just gets you down.

"People in cities and towns think we are millionaires making money [with money] coming out of our pockets and seriously we wonder why we should carry on doing it."

Retired lamb drafter Malcolm McDuff, of Gore, watched the parade of tractors and vehicles travel down Main St.

Mr McDuff said the new freshwater policy was impractical in many instances including when crops needed to be sown by and what waterways needed fencing.

"I think common sense has got to prevail," Mr McDuff said.

It was a pity the situation had developed where farmers needed to protest the new regulations, he said.

"I’m right behind them."


Have the Government not already said they will make changes to accommodate regional differences? Environment Southland is also farmer friendly (which might account for Southland having some of the worst polluted waterways in the country). I understand the pressure farmers are under and that they are scared but as long as they keep protesting so that they can keep polluting they will only alienate themselves further. They should instead protest for more help to reduce their environmental footprint to transition to a better way of farming not just for the waterways but for all future life on this planet.
“They have no arguments left. This is a crisis completely based on scientific consensus, but they try to focus on something else. It’s as if there was a fire and the alarm starts and they try to argue about the fire alarm instead of the actual fire.” - Greta Thunberg.