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‘Tractor March’ makes tracks through region

Bad weather didn’t deter farmers’ protest group Groundswell NZ from convoying through the region with its ‘Drive 4 Change Tractor March’ yesterday.

Approximately 50 people in tractors, utes, and cars took part in yesterday’s protest against increasing government regulations imposed on farmers and food producers.

Groundswell NZ’s 10-day ‘march’ – its third major nationwide protest – started on September 22 in Invercargill and will continue to make its way up the country until it finishes at Auckland’s Ellerslie Racecourse on Saturday, October 1.

The farmer lobby group anticipate other farmers and food producers will join them as they progress up the North Island.

Groundswell NZ co-founder and Southland farmer Laurie Paterson told the Times-Age he was pleased with the turnout of protestors yesterday, which has been a trend right up and down the country.

Paterson said the protest received a positive reaction, with bystanders waving signs and motorists flashing their lights, tooting their horns, and giving them the thumbs up. “We’re trying to focus on the fact that rural New Zealand has been put to the side by this government, with over-regulation,” he said.

“At the end of the day, I think two things that we can’t afford to lose when we look at the debt that has built up is pastoral farmland going into trees, and the other thing is that we don’t lose a generation of young farmers.

“The grassland in New Zealand is our natural advantage and the young people that come through as farmers are the ones that actually take that advantage to the next height.

“They are the ones we actually want.”

Paterson is worried the young people who would otherwise be the next generation of farmers will struggle to see a way through and therefore opt out of farming due to some of the strict government regulations being imposed.

Farmers are not against regulations per se, Paterson said, but they must be “common sense” rules.

“Things like water tax for irrigation and effluent disposals and that sort of thing, you definitely need regulations around it,” he said.

“It’s just the endless regulations around sowing dates, pugging, and now in the South, we’ve still got the low slope map regulation.”

Farmer and Wairere Rams principal Derek Daniell – who was a part of yesterday’s protest – described the country’s current economic performance as “going down the gurgler” as a result of being “bullied into international negotiations.”

Daniell said Kiwi farmers have been threatened with a wealth tax, greenhouse gas tax, water tax, having significant natural areas taken away, restrictions on grazing, and further regulations on how run their property.

“It undermines people’s confidence,” Daniell said.

“We’ve all followed this artificial economy up to the point where New Zealand owes a lot of money – not only public debt but private debt.

“All the political debate that I see on television is all childish stuff; they’re not talking about this. They’re trying to score points on whether there will be handouts for people. We can’t afford this.

“It’s going to be a long way back.”

Meanwhile, Wairarapa area commander Inspector Scott Miller said that while the district operations team in Wellington is monitoring the Groundswell NZ protest as of yesterday, there have been no incidents reported and it isn’t a concern or considered “high risk” by police.

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