Town and country to unite at protest

Thousands attended the Howl of a Protest in Ashburton in July. But this time there will be no gathering point.

Town and country coming together is part of Groundswell NZ’s mantra for its second nationwide protest, Mother of All Protests.

Protesting government’s unworkable regulations, the protest will take place from vehicles travelling in convoy around the west side of Ashburton tomorrow (Sunday, November 21), from 1pm. There is no planned gathering.

The protest route starts from the Ashburton Domain at West Street, travels north to Racecourse Road, turns left on to Belt Road and through to Oak Grove then left on to Alford Forest Road. It will then turn left at West Street back towards the domain.

Jodan Townshend (centre), one of the Ashburton protest organisers, said people were encouraged to stay in their vehicles and drive the designated route before pulling over to listen to the Groundswell NZ statement on the radio.

Jodan Townshend, one of the Ashburton protest organisers, said this time people were encouraged to stay inside their vehicles, whether it be tractors, cars, trucks or utes, due to covid restrictions.

For the Mother of All Protests people are being encouraged to drive to their local town, stay in their vehicle and listen for a Groundswell statement to be read on the Newstalk ZB radio frequency at 1.35pm.

In Ashburton the radio frequency is 98.1FM or 873AM.

Protesters will start at the Ashburton Domain on West Street and drive the route until a nationwide statement is read. Then all vehicle drivers are to pull over, put their hazard lights on, and turn up their radio for the Groundswell statement, Mr Townshend said.

Vehicles are expected to drive the route from 1pm to 2pm.

A combined dog howl was part of the last Groundswell NZ protest in July.

As well as no gatherings, organisers have requested no offensive placards or signs. However there are Groundswell flags/banners which can be displayed on vehicles to show drivers are part of the protest.

Groundswell NZ co-founder Laurie Paterson said momentum had continued to build since thousands of farmers, and a fair few dogs, descended on towns and cities throughout the country for Howl of a Protest, to oppose what they called unworkable regulations.

More centres were on board for this protest, and a huge turnout, including many tradies, was expected in Auckland.

Groundswell NZ had created an online tool for supporters to write to agriculture and rural communities Minister Damien O’Connor, “to tell him to do his job and stick up for rural communities”, the group said.

Within a week of launch it had generated about 5000 letters.

Hard copies would be delivered to Mr O’Connor’s Beehive office before the protest with copies sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and climate change Minister James Shaw.

Mr Paterson said virtually all feedback and phone calls before Howl of a Protest were from rural people but this time it was the opposite with the calls coming out of cities.

“That’s part of our mantra this time … town and country together,” he said.

There were expectations of those attending Mother of All Protests, including obeying road rules, local Covid-19 rules and making way for emergency services.

Protesters will stay in their vehicle bubbles for the Mother of All Protests in Ashburton tomorrow.

Participants needed to stay in their vehicle and not compromise their bubble, he said.

The Groundswell NZ message would be read by co-founder Bryce McKenzie, who would drive into Gore as part of the protest along with Mr Paterson.

The pair have recently had meetings with Federated Farmers, Beef+Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ and Horticulture New Zealand, discussing a range of topics.