Protesters drive north

A nationwide campaign opposing the government’s rural sector regulations and policies launched out of Invercargill yesterday.

Rerouting slightly around Mataura due to flooding-induced road closures, Groundswell NZ co-founders Bryce McKenzie and Laurie Paterson led a convoy of about 10 tractors out of Lorneville Stockyards at 9.30am, planning to arrive at Auckland’s Ellerslie Racecourse on October 1.

Drive 4 Change is Groundswell’s latest campaign, timed to mobilise voters during election season.

Their message is simple: "Things are bad, you need to vote, and you need to vote for change".

"There’s no way that rural New Zealand can stand another three years of this," Mr Paterson said.

"I think this election really should be not this television spectacular, reality TV, but people should look at the issues and vote accordingly."

The Groundswell convoy heads north on State Highway1, just north of Balclutha, yesterday. PHOTO:...
The Groundswell convoy heads north on State Highway1, just north of Balclutha, yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Mr Paterson acknowledged the current state of emergency, stating if the trek had not been so thoroughly planned they would have started elsewhere.

"We really feel for all those people that have been affected by the flooding."

Mr Paterson said Groundswell’s previous protests, the Howl of a Protest and Mother of all Protests, demonstrated the feelings of the rural sector.

"We've got a whole lot of academics, if you like, that decide how everyone's going to run their businesses — and that just doesn’t work."

Te Anau farmer Max Slee said he had been farming for about 60 years, and was joining the protest on its journey to Gore as he also felt it was time for a change of government.

The eight-day trek will see Mr Paterson and Mr McKenzie lead a convoy though the country’s major centres before ending in Auckland next Sunday.