Farmers gathered in Masterton to protest government regulations. PHOTOS/GRACE PRIOR
Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said his Masterton electorate office was vandalised and his staff abused during Thursday’s Groundswell protest.
About 50 protesters congregated at 12.30pm at The Farriers Bar and Eatery car park in Masterton, despite no official Groundswell protest being organised for the town.
The protest was organised across New Zealand off the back of government-proposed farm emissions pricing, which had been altered from the initial He Waka Eke Noa proposal.
McAnulty said it was disappointing that instead of participating in the consultation process and working with industry bodies and the government to get the emissions pricing and settings right, someone went to his office, abused members of his team, and graffitied inside the office.
“This does not help their cause one bit.”
“Such actions are at odds with those that participated in the He Waka Eke Noa process, and their actions are not representative of the views held by all farmers.”
A police spokesperson said a report had been received after the vandalism of McAnulty’s office, but no charges had been laid.
McAnulty said farmers recognised it was important to move on the issue.
“That’s why they put their proposals to the government in the first place, and I remain committed to working with them”
Voices for Freedom, who were protesting by Masterton’s town hall, said they were in support of the Groundswell protest.
Co-organiser of last year’s Groundswell protest, Mark McKenzie, said he made a last-minute call to organise a protest for farmers who couldn’t make their way to Wellington or Palmerston North to protest en mass.
“The government had villainised us and belittled us for such a long time that we have to stand up … because if we don’t, we’re going to lose our farming,” protester Andy Bunny said.
Protester Vaughan Marfell said if every Wairarapa business were told that farming was shutting down, most of them would close up shop too.
“It’s going to happen,” protester Andy Phillips said.
Bunny said he felt like submission processes for regulation changes had been a waste of time.
Marfell said the cost of living was going to go through the roof as a flow-on effect of farm emissions pricing and other government regulations.
He said one pinch-point for Wairarapa farmers was overseas companies buying productive farmland to plant pine trees for carbon.
Marfell said it was to offset their emissions through the emissions training scheme [ETS] to make them look “like they’re green”.
McKenzie said farmers didn’t deny climate change.
Bunny said farmers didn’t invent livestock and they had always been here, “without us farming them, they’d all be dead”.
“In the 70s they said we were heading into an ice age.”
Protester Phillip Engel said he thought New Zealand farming was already healthy, modern, and sustainable while the rest of the globe envied the nation’s agricultural system.
“But we [farmers] have to pay the price, I need that one explained to me.”
He said he was worried about the future of his business and the future generation of farming.
McAnulty said the farm emissions pricing plan the government had proposed was based primarily on proposals put forward by the primary sector.
“The vast majority of their proposals have been accepted. Where there is a difference in view, the Government is seeking formal feedback.”
McAnulty said the consultation was open and the government had encouraged all Kiwis to contribute to make sure the policy was right.
Police could not confirm if they were notified in advance of the protest.