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Hundreds turn out for farmers’ Howl of a Protest

'WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!'

The Howl of a Protest hit Gisborne's main road from Showgrounds Park to Grey Street this morning as farmers joined nationwide action at Government plans to hike ute costs to subsidise electric vehicles (EVs).

Hundreds of people in more than 350 vehicles — ranging from utes to tractors to harvesting machines — joined the protest parade.

Other ute owners, such as tradies, were also part of it as a large procession stretched along Gladstone Road.

Such was the numbers, it took around 30 minutes for all of the vehicles and machinery to leave Showgrounds Park from 11am.

The protest was not limited to the road. A topdressing aircraft and helicopter accompanied the parade in the air.

Participants carried placards with messages such as “If you ate today, thank a farmer” and “EVs are helping to use one million tonnes of imported coal”.

The Gisborne protest was one of more than 50 demonstrations held in towns and cities across the country.

Traffic was brought to a standstill at intersections along Gladstone Road.

Police were out in force to keep an eye on traffic.

The Groundswell NZ group orchestrated the nationwide event.

Farmers are up in arms over what they see as the Government's “avalanche of unreasonable, unworkable and unjustifiable regulations”, not just the ute price hike.

Motu couple Neil and Esther Henderson organised the protest rally in Gisborne.

“The Government's putting forward unworkable regulations and unjustified costs around the purchase of utility vehicles,” the couple said.

The extra costs come in from January next year to raise money to subsidise the purchase of electric vehicles.

“What they are proposing will bump up the cost of a new ute by up to $5000 and we think that's completely unacceptable.”

But the protest parade was about more than utes, they said.

“Essentially farmers are being strangled by bureaucracy and unworkable regulations, and they're fed up, like other people are, with increasing government interference in their lives and businesses.

“The Government has a ‘one-size-fits-all' approach to issues like freshwater management and farmers are simply being ignored.”

The Hendersons said the “avalanche” of new regulations was putting incredible stress on members of the farming community.

Among the Gisborne contingent were Charlie Reynolds, Dave Devine and All Blacks great Ian Kirkpatrick.

Mr Devine summed up frustrations that had built up in farmers.

“I've had a gutsful of the Government. They're a bunch of ideologists who haven't got an ounce of common sense in their heads.”

Mr Reynolds said it was “great to see farmers doing something when they're angry”.

Mr Kirkpatrick said he was there to “support the cause”.

“I'm not really angry but I'm not happy, and like a lot of the farmers here, I've had enough.”

Also among the participants was Jenny Williams, who described the protest action as “fantastic”.

“It shows how the decisions of this government are affecting farmers and tradies.”

Mrs Henderson said the turnout had “blown us away.”

“This is absolutely beyond expectations.”

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS: Hundreds of people in a variety of vehicles converged at Showgrounds Park this morning for the Howl of a Protest down the main road as farmers vented their frustrations at the Government.

Picture by Paul Rickard

Farmers Protest

  1. Bernie Bliss, Mahia Peninsula says:

    Great protest. Now would be a good time for the Government to call a snap election to see who really is happy with the status quo.

  2. Mary-Ann de Kort says:

    When the National Party government signed the Paris Climate Accord agreement there would be a cost of $14.2 billion to buy carbon credits.
    Businesses would be expected to buy the tax credits but farmers would be exempt and the Government would cover their costs using taxpayer funds.
    Farmers were to get a very easy ride. They even get help from taxpayers for drought relief, flood relief, land subsidence, pest control in surrounding bush, free TB testing, NAIT, micoplasma bovis, PSA and they also got cheap imported labour.
    There was no plan to reduce emissions in New Zealand and that cost would be used to pay other countries to reduce their emissions while we continued to pollute.
    I’m happy that our Labour Government have a plan and the cost will be spread so that the agricultural sector will now be included and expected to do their bit along with the rest of us. Most of the world have incentives to phase out fossil fuel vehicles but so far we are the outliers.
    As for the cost of a ute, most farmers and tradies will recoup some of this as a tax-deductible expense and in depreciation, even if they use it for personal use rather than work purposes.
    Most of the rest of us can’t afford the cost of a new ute so will not have to pay an extra incentive payment, because it is not charged on vehicles which are already in the country. It’s only charged on newly-imported vehicles.
    Well done government!

    “Businesses reliant on carbon-intensive transport will be required to buy international credits to account for their emissions, while the Government will wear the cost of buying credits for industries exempt from the Emissions Trading Scheme such as agriculture.”
    https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2017/05/new-zealand-to-spend-14-billion-to-meet-paris-agreement-targets.html

    1. Neil Henderson says:

      Mary-Ann is sadly one of a large number of people who have been misled by the seriously flawed methodology used in calculating our greenhouse gas inventory which makes it appear that about half this country’s emissions come from livestock. This calculation fails to account for the fact that methane does not accumulate in the atmosphere in the way carbon dioxide does. Even Dr Harry Clark, head of the Pastural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and one of the Climate Commissioners, has agreed with my statement that a constant level of production causes no change in the atmospheric concentration of methane and therefore causes no more warming. So our farm, with its stable emissions, has zero liability. There is much more to this issue as well, but it is too complex to put here.

      As for the idea that electric vehicles are better than fossil fuel, think again. Every new EV adds to the amount of electricity generated with Huntly coal. Further, the rare earth metals used to make the EV batteries are in such short supply that it would be impossible to power all the world’s cars on electricity. Many of the known reserves are under the sea or in environmentally sensitive areas. As Mr Devine said, it is all ideology and no common sense.

      As for subsidies, the relief farmers get for adverse weather etc is tax relief. I would need to check the specifics with an accountant, but I believe it to be a deferral of tax to smooth income from the sale of stock that would normally have occurred at a future date.

      Footnote from Ed: I’m happy to add some detail around this complex issue, as the science is clear. It is important to note, though, that the debate moves outside the realm of science and into opinions about equity and burden sharing.
      First, though, to the claim that your farm has “zero liability” because it has stable emissions. That means you are failing to improve productivity on your farm (or slowly reducing herd size), and that you don’t feel at all accountable for the warming those stable emissions lock in.
      Second, electric vehicle technology, scale and sustainability are evolving rapidly; coal was used to generate 5 percent of New Zealand’s electricity last year — it has spiked lately, but Huntly’s operator plans to boost renewable generation and scale back its fossil-fuelled electricity.
      Now, to the science around methane emissions.
      Methane is a short-lived gas. It has a strong warming effect in the short term but this warming rapidly drops off because the methane is rapidly oxidised in the atmosphere. However, the warming effect in the atmosphere does last longer than the lifetime of methane would indicate — the warming from a pulse of methane emitted today would still be measured in 100 years (roughly four times greater than an equivalent amount of CO2 emitted today). Because of the short life in the atmosphere, a pulse of CH4 emitted today is to a large extent balanced by the breakdown of a pulse of CH4 emitted previously. Hence if methane emissions remain constant over time, the concentration of CH4 in the atmosphere tends to stabilise and warming tends to stabilise. Globally it is estimated by Professor Myles Allen (of Oxford University, and the main proponent of the GWP* emissions metric Mr Henderson prefers) that a 10 percent reduction in CH4 emissions would mean that no further warming would arise from methane. This does not signify that no warming comes from methane, rather no additional warming to the warming that emissions from methane already cause.
      It isn’t easy to estimate how much warming comes from ruminant methane, but Dr Andy Reisinger (deputy director, New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre) has estimated it to be about 14 percent of the warming the Earth has experienced since the industrial revolution. Therefore reducing CH4 emissions from livestock by about 10 percent globally simply locks in a given amount of warming — warming still occurs from CH4 emissions, but no more than in the past. To get to a similar situation with respect to CO2 i.e. no additional warming then CO2 (and N2O), both long-lived gases, emissions need to reduce to zero. Again, warming still occurs but only at the existing level. A difference between the two is that if methane emissions are reduced to stabilise warming, it is the current emissions that cause current warming. But if CO2 emissions are reduced to zero to stabilise warming, it is past emissions that cause the current warming.
      Scientists and policy-makers globally agree that because CO2 is long-lived and the most abundant anthropogenic gas, it has at a minimum to get to net zero as quickly as possible. The speed at which CH4 should be reduced is less clear cut — some argue that we can leave it until CO2 is reduced, while others argue that to stay with the Paris Accord’s 1.5C goal without overshoot it needs to be reduced as quickly as possible alongside CO2.
      There is very good consensus about this (simplified) science outlined above. But the science can only help inform things like emissions reduction targets.
      Given the above, what should the New Zealand reduction target be for CH4? One school of thought says simply that if we add no more warming then we are not adding further to the problem, and we should therefore have a net zero target for CO2 and a small reduction target for CH4, eg 10 percent (this seems on the face of it equitable, as the burden is then shared equally). But no more warming relative to what baseline? New Zealand committed to reduce emissions below 1990, so should a temperature target reflect a past year or the current warming? Also, the 10 percent reduction quoted by Myles Allen is a global average so given that CH4 represents a larger proportion of our emissions than the global average, should we have a stronger target than 10 percent to reflect that? Dr Reisinger did some work for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and came up with a range 10-22 percent below 2016 levels by 2050 and 20-27 percent by 2100.
      On top of that the Paris agreement clearly says that developed countries should take the lead, so should we have an even stronger target? On the other hand, the Paris agreement says that food production shouldn’t be affected, so should we have a less stringent target?
      Opponents would argue that we don’t have to eat animal products, and we could produce more food with less emissions by growing crops than farming ruminants. Others would argue that because we can’t do much about past emissions, but we can do something about future emissions, we should reduce all future emissions to zero — net zero CO2 and N2O mean no future warming from these gases, as there are no emissions, but if we stabilise CH4 so that there is no further warming there is warming compared to us not emitting the CH4 — so we are missing an opportunity to keep within the Paris targets. There is then an economic argument — from a societal perspective we should reduce emissions at the least cost to the economy; this means that targets reflect the gas and the technologies available.
      Neil Henderson simply makes the assertion that if we make no additional contribution to warming then that is fine. This is a value judgement that not many others would agree with. It is informed by the science, but doesn’t arise directly from the science. Science can’t tell us whether his view is right or wrong. Ultimately targets are set politically and they will reflect a broader set of considerations than the science.

  3. Bob Hughes says:

    Yesterday it was “Lifestyles must change”.
    Today we get this.
    These guys and others simply just don’t get the message.

    1. Peter Jones says:

      You are the one who is not getting the message Bob.
      One particular red ute was noticeably absent.
      Congratulations farmers of Gisborne.

    2. G R Webb says:

      Bob the gummint you back has allowed the importation of 250kgs of dirty coal into NZ for every New Zealander in the last year. As the repository of all knowledge, how many cows is that the emissions equivalent of?