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Farmers pitch a protest

Friday’s “A Howl of a Protest” Wairarapa organisers Mark McKenzie, Derek Daniell, and David Holmes. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR

Hundreds of farmers are expected to take to the streets in Masterton with their utes and tractors on Friday, protesting government regulation.

“A Howl of a Protest” will be taking place in more than 50 towns across New Zealand, sending the message that farmers have had enough.

The group are gearing up to protest the “ute tax”, as well as regulation around freshwater, significant natural areas, and indigenous biodiversity.

Masterton co-ordinators Derek Daniell, Mark McKenzie, and David Holmes said they were sick of farmers being “treated like scapegoats by the government”.

The new fees on utes were introduced by the government last month as part of its Clean Car Package, in a bid to increase the uptake of electric vehicles [EVs]

People who buy EVs will be eligible for rebates or discounts of up to $8625.

The rebate is to be funded by a fee on purchases of new high-emitting vehicles, such as utes.

The scheme has come under scrutiny from farmers and tradesmen who think it’s an unfair tax on them as there are no electric vehicles available for their work.

Daniell said farmers were being unfairly targeted by regulation whereas cities have entirely different rules.

“Why doesn’t Auckland get fined $10 million every time there is sewage on the beaches? I’d rather drink water from a stream on a dairy farm in Waikato than from one running through Auckland.”

Daniell said many government regulations were “unworkable” for farmers, and worried for the future of rural New Zealand.

He said the consultation process for these plans had been “held behind closed doors” and wasn’t reflective of a functioning democracy.

Organisers hoped that farmers, food producers, contractors, and tradesmen would band together to protest.

“We want to be in the media for the right reasons and to be sensible persuaders. This isn’t a political event but politicians should listen to the grassroots.”

They had a set of rules for participants including obeying the road rules, and only driving road-legal vehicles.

They wanted to encourage people to show up with their utes, tractors, dogs, and even horses.

Holmes said the rural sector had made a lot of positive changes in the past 10 years.

He and the other co-ordinators were worried they’d continue to see regulations get harder and harder for farmers, while leaving the next generation with massive amounts of debt.

Daniell said New Zealand’s farmland area was also shrinking, “our flat land is being taken over by city and lifestyle blocks, which now occupy the same area as dairying”.

McKenzie was worried about how future New Zealanders would be fed with less productive land, while maintaining international exports.

Statistics New Zealand said New Zealand exported 95 per cent of the dairy it produced, earning the country $16 billion in 2020.

China became New Zealand’s biggest customer in recent years; spending on dairy grew from $13.5 million in 1990 to more than $5.5 billion in 2020.

Daniell said China was likely to become self-sufficient by 2050, no longer purchasing our products, particularly pine.

He said pine forests for the purpose of carbon farming had been taking over productive farmland in the past few years.

The “Howl of a Protest” participants will be meeting at Farriers in Masterton at noon tomorrow.

The group will then make its way up Queen St to Countdown.

Half will turn and head down Dixon St, the other half will head down Chapel St.

The group will be assisted by police.

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