Farmers in their tractors and utes are staging ‘Howl of a Protest’ protests in 55 cities all over New Zealand today, all uniting to show disapproval of numerous government policies that interfere with the way farmers operate and increase costs.
The nationwide rally was organised by Groundswell NZ, a farming advocacy group that recently gained prominence in speaking out against the Clean Car Discount and Clean Car Standard schemes, both of which place a target on ute buyers.
The Herald reports that thousands of farmers are taking part in the Auckland protest, which kicked off with a huge park-up of utes and tractors on the Southern Motorway’s shoulder and includes a run up Queen Street in the CBD.
Gridlock at Drury and Ramarama was reported at 9.30am, partially caused by the number of tractors on the motorway. The Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency has warned motorists using the Southern Motorway to consider alternative routes.
Groundswell NZ’s position statement includes seven points of contention with the government, one of which being the recent announcement to tack a levy on the price of high-emission vehicles, starting in 2022.
While this levy will apply to all sorts of different vehicles, it will have the greatest impact on utes due to their local popularity. Most of the country’s most popular models are set to incur levies between $2,000 and $3,000.
“There is no electric alternative to the ute – a vehicle which is essential to New Zealand’s economic heavy-lifters: farmers, horticulturalists, industry support people and tradesmen. If there is no alternative, the policy is clearly unworkable and merely another financial burden,” says Groundswell’s position statement.
The group are also lobbying for the National Policy Statement on Freshwater, the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity, and the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill to be scrapped.
On top of this, Groundswell NZ is seeking changes to the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme, the way ‘Significant Natural Areas’ are governed, and quarantine regulations for seasonal rural workers from overseas.
Protestors have been instructed to protest peacefully. A memo issued by Groundswell NZ to its followers on social media instructed them to follow road rules, be respectful of private property, keep dogs on leashes, and for ute protesters to display their ute’s ‘use’ if possible.
“We want to be the sensible persuaders not a bunch of rednecks,” the memo added. “Let’s be in the media for the right reasons not the wrong reasons.”