Hundreds turn out for farmers’ Howl of a Protest
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