Rural rumble hits town

Photo: Daniel Hines

Hundreds of farm vehicles, tractors, trucks, utes, vans and cars converged on cities around the country on November 21 as part of a national protest.

Hailed as ‘The Mother of all Protests’, motorcades in the North and South Islands gridlocked traffic in a planned stand by Groundswell NZ against what many feel are unworkable regulations.

At the Tauranga protest, utes, tractors, trucks and cars left from Pyes Pa, Katikati, Kaimai Range, Oropi, Te Puna, Paengaroa and Te Puke at 11am heading towards Tauranga.

Once arriving at the city outskirts, the vehicles joined in a large city loop that extended from Barkes Corner to Adams Ave, aiming to be circling Tauranga by 1pm.

At 1.35pm every driver stopped, turned off their engines, opened their windows and turned up the volume on their radios where a Groundswell statement was played over the airwaves on Newstalk ZB.

Groundswell NZ is a volunteer group of farmers and rural professionals advocating for grass roots farmers and rural communities. The organisation came about earlier in the year with Groundswell’s Howl Of A Protest which made international headlines back in July. Although it started with a tractor protest about the National Policy on Freshwater, overwhelming national support has grown to encompass far more.

Groundswell NZ is also seeking a halt to, and rewrite of, unworkable regulations – freshwater, indigenous biodiversity, climate change and Crown Pastoral Land Reform bill (new regulation affecting high country farmers); a stronger advocacy voice on behalf of farmers and rural communities; seeking solutions to environmental issues that are tailored to regional/district differences; and supporting the hundreds of grassroots initiatives like Catchment and Landcare groups, QEII covenants, and biodiversity and conservation trusts.

On the two occasions that Groundswell has been in Wellington and requested a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, she’s declined to meet with them.

“She’s ignoring the 60,000 people that went out and protested against her Government’s regulations in July,” says Groundswell NZ leader Bryce McKenzie.

“We’re not against improving the environment, but we want it to be done in a common sense way because the new regulations just don’t make on-the-ground, practical sense.

“Kiwis are common sense hardworking, practical people. We think these regulations are unworkable, unfair and unreasonable, and have to cease. The Government must have the wisdom and compassion to hear and see this.”

Bryce says the stress of Covid has been tough enough on one and all - both rural and urban.

“The raft of what we see as unworkable regulations has only added to everyone’s worries and frustrations,” says Bryce.

Ahead of the protest, there were concerns within the Groundswell NZ organisation that it could be taken over by other protest groups, who could hijack the intended message.

“We’re not anti-vaxxers, we’re not aligned with any churches. We’re about unworkable rules for farmers and our rural communities, the ridiculous ute tax and the Three Waters debacle, and that’s it, and we’ve stuck with that.

“We the people of New Zealand demand an end to these regulations until genuine consultation takes place that treats all New Zealand citizens in a fair and equal manner resulting in acceptable solutions for all.”

Bryce says enough is enough.

“It’s time to unite and force government to take notice and acknowledge Groundswell.

 “If the Government is not forthcoming in addressing these issues, we call on all New Zealanders to join with us in our protest in Wellington in February next year,” says Bryce.

The latest protest is part of the plan to build momentum towards the ‘Groundswell Gathering’ that is taking place in February 2022 at Parliament in Wellington.

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