These people are not on their own. There are Groundswell protests occurring around the country. Some small, some large. Whatever you think about the methods of protesting, this one in Mercury Bay’s front yard - opposite Countdown in Lady Gaskell Drive, was a strong statement which didn’t interfere with safety or traffic. It did seem to garner a lot of support. One of the signs of the protest stated, ‘Beep in support....” and 90% of cars tooted enthusiastically.
The people with the signs are farmers, businessmen, businesswomen, farmers, retirees. I recognised among the protestors, many who work hard in community organisations.
There are many things on their list of objections, but the main principle is that broad brush policies regarding the imposing of taxes and levies that are lazy and not thought through, but imposed from Wellington as blanket rules for everyone, are distressing and almost perverse in their effect.
Groundswell is asking for the National Policy Statement on freshwater to be reworked to take into account regional differences. The representatives believe that community led initiatives can and do work very well and that centralising ideas and imposing them, is a sure way not to take people with you. In 2020, the Government proposed new rules to protect and restore freshwater. The rules included putting controls on farm practices, such as winter grazing and feedlots, stricter controls on nitrogen pollution, and included mandatory and enforceable farm environment plans.
Part of Groundswell’s defence is that there needs to be schemes that account for the good work that farmers are doing. There is regenerative farming going on with more efficiency. Improving farming is very different from making it impossible to farm viably.
Groundswell is also protesting the Government plans to tax cow burps and other greenhouse gas emissions. One of the spokespersons at the protest said, “No one disputes that we should be kind to the environment, and that we have all been using resources in an unsustainable way, but to tax the dairy farmer for producing food in a certain way, rather than work with the dairy industry to progressively do things differently is too heavy handed. It is an accredited fact that dairy producers are among the top producers and most efficient across the dairy industry.”
Another stated, It’s the people on low and middle incomes who bear the disproportionate burden of more taxes and increases in prices. They are already working hard. It is time to stop grabbing land and resources and work with the communities and to stop burdening the people who are working hard to contribute to the economy of New Zealand. “