Rural Groundswell NZ protestors are gearing up to drive their tractors and utes through the region today and protest the “unworkable regulations” imposed on farmers.
The protesters plan to make their way through Featherston at around 10am, through to Greytown at 10.40am, Carterton at 11am, and finally congregate and stop for lunch at the Horseshoe car park in Masterton from 12–12.45pm today.
Similar to last year’s protest – The Groundswell Tractor March was organised across New Zealand off the back of government-proposed farm emissions pricing.
Initially founded by two southern farmers – Byrce Mckenzie and Laurie Paterson – Groundswell is now supported by a team of volunteers and rural professionals.
Groundswell NZ co-founder Mckenzie told the Times-Age that a number of agriculture regulations put in place by the government “are not practical and farmers can’t comply with some of them”.
“We just want them to be practical so that people can comply, rather than just being pipe dreams,” he said.
While McKenzie acknowledged that there is a need for some regulation of agriculture, he is confident that there are alternatives through their Groundswell solutions – which will be announced at a get-together “burning policy day” in Auckland this Saturday.
“It’s burning the policies that are unworkable.”
According to McKenzie – what led him to establish Groundswell NZ in 2020 was his concern for younger generations and the battles they face farming “under unworkable regulations,” with the agriculture methane emissions tax being one of his main concerns for rural NZ.
“Until there’s real science used to actually determine the warming effect of methane, we will stand firmly against it,” McKenzie said.
Groundswell’s marches in the past have reflected positive changes, Mckenzie said, in particular the government’s changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management following their 2021 protest.
“They certainly listened and we know that because Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor was very quick to contact us and tell us that,” Mckenzie said.
Although it’s the first time McKenzie has attended Groundswell’s March in Masterton, he said he has heard from other attendees that there have been good turnouts
of protestors in the past.
McKenzie said he is unsure how many protestors will convoy through the region today, due to weather and farmers’ availability.
“The march was designed to be user-friendly for farmers to be able to join in for a little while,” McKenzie said.
Meanwhile, Wellington Acting District Commander Wade Jennings said police are aware of several groups planning protest activity, including a march to Parliament grounds tomorrow.
“We have been planning for these events, particularly taking into account managing movement of a large number of people and vehicles,” Jennings said.
“Police acknowledge the right to protest, and our role is to ensure the safety of all as well as upholding the law.
Police have been in contact with organisers of various groups and have “set clear expectations for peaceful and lawful activity.”