Canterbury farmers, supporters turn out for Groundswell protest

Country has arrived in town, with the rural sector - and its town supporters - taking to the streets across the country to protest a slew of Government regulations.

Groundswell NZ co-founder Bryce McKenzie, of Tapanui, said the protest would take place in about 70 towns and cities across New Zealand.

It is the successor to July’s ‘‘Howl of a Protest’’, which led to large gatherings in most centres nationwide to oppose what Groundswell sees as overregulation of the rural sector by the Government.

The key points included Three Waters reform, the national policy on freshwater, significant natural areas, the national policy on indigenous biodiversity, shortages of seasonal rural workers, climate change policy, the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill and the clean car package.

In Christchurch up to 300 vehicles gathered in Memorial Ave.

Christchurch organiser Arron Stark said it was too early for a full count yet, but they're expecting more people than last time.

Protestors gather in Christchurch. Photo / George Heard
Protestors gather in Christchurch. Photo / George Heard

"We're coming in from Rolleston now and we've got about 2kms of traffic behind us."

"We've had really good support from Police. We've got a couple of Police cars with us right now."

"I'm blown away with the amount of cars driving past down the motorway tooting and waving. Just people in general are turning out to support."

Stark said he's spoken to people today who have turned up in cars with signs that have never been at a protest before.

"One lady walked up to me before, she said 'I've never been to a protest, but something's gotta change. I'm here to support you'. I was like wow. She'd be well into her retirement years.

"My personal hope is that they [the Government] stand back and they realise it's not just a couple of disgruntled farmers from down south. This is now a New Zealand wide problem. More and more people are turning up and getting involved."

Further south, rain didn't stop hundreds of vehicles clogging Stafford St, Timaru.

Vehicles on the main street were adorned with signs such as "Steal our water at your peril", "a real leader would listen to her people" and "be kind to farmers".

Timaru's main streets were filled with tractors, utes and honking horns at the Groundswell protest on Sunday. Photo: Helen Holt
Timaru's main streets were filled with tractors, utes and honking horns at the Groundswell protest on Sunday. Photo: Helen Holt

Timaru locals stood with signs along the street and were greeted with horns from the utes and tractors.

This protest was one of five in South Canterbury, alongside Fairlie, Temuka, Geraldine and Waimate.

Timaru District Mayor Nigel Bowen stood with the protestors at the top of Stafford St. He said he was standing very much in solidarity of the Groundswell protest. 

In a statement on Newstalk ZB this afternoon, the Groundswell organisation said Covid-19 had been tough enough on both rural and urban, with unworkable regulations adding to people's worries and frustrations.

"We, the people of New Zealand want an end to these regulations until genuine consultation takes place that treats all New Zealand citizens in a fair and equal manner resolving in acceptable resolutions for all.

"If the Government is not forthcoming in addressing these issues, I call on all New Zealanders to join our protest in Wellington in February next year. We say 'enough is enough' and ask all participants to disperse and go home in a peaceful manner," the statement said.

- NZ Herald and Helen Holt



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