New Zealand flags were flying and vehicles of all shapes and sizes tooting as hundreds of people turned out in Ashburton to support the Mother of All Protests.
It was part of the nationwide co-ordinated protest on November 21 organised by Groundswell NZ in response to a barrage of government imposed regulations on New Zealand’s farming community.
In Ashburton the convoy – scores of vehicles long – wove its way around the western side of town, holding up traffic and drawing residents and supporters, young and old alike, to the roadside to wave and encourage.
It was a united stand as tradies and urban sympathisers joined farmers and contractors to protest against compounding, unworkable regulations being forced on the rural sector.
Banners which included ‘United We Stand Against Unworkable Regulations’, Farmers Love NZ No Farmers No Food’, were met with cheers and waves from people on the street. Some also holding their own signs such as Farmers Are Us.
Vince Reveley, of Mount Somers, made the hour-long round trip to show his support.
A grazier of 15 years, Mr Reveley had concern for ongoing regulations weighing heavily on many in the sector, himself included.
He was concerned about grazing rules which limited land he could use, which affected his income. But there were also fertiliser restrictions, rules for forestry and pre-1990s blocks, and for those with Significant Natural Areas who openly completed surveys about the areas on their land.
“… now that information is being used against us,” Mr Reveley said.
New Zealand farmers were considered world leaders in agricultural practice but with never-ending regulations, it seemed as if the rest of the world could carry on as usual, as Kiwi farmers were penalised, he said.
The Mother of All Protests was the successor to July’s “Howl of a Protest”, which saw large gatherings in most centres nationwide opposing what was seen as overregulation of the rural sector by government.
The key points included Three Waters reform, the national policy on freshwater, significant natural areas, the national policy on indigenous biodiversity, shortages of seasonal rural workers, climate change policy, the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill and the clean car package.
Tractors, combines, trucks, cars and utes slowed down traffic along West Street, Ashburton’s main artery route through town, before turning left on to Racecourse Road, then left into Belt Road along Oak Grove past the Ashburton Hospital and left on to Alford Forest Road to Moore Street and back on to West Street at the McDonald’s corner.
In a statement on Newstalk ZB timed for during the protest, the Groundswell organisation said unworkable regulations were adding to people’s worries and frustrations.
The group were planning another protest in Wellington in February next year if there concerns were not addressed.