Farmers to stage protest over 'continued attacks' on rural New Zealand

Organisers are frustrated at policies they see as anti-rural being touted by political parties pre-election.

Farming communities are staging a protest in the Waikato town of Morrinsville next Monday to express their frustration at being a “punching bag for urban politicians.”

The move follows Labour’s announcements it would include agriculture in a net zero carbon emissions scheme, introduce a water tax, and consider including farms in a potential land and capital gains tax.

The Greens have also promised to scrap the emissions trading scheme altogether and replace it with the “Kiwi Climate Fund,” which would include a tax on methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural sources.

National has toyed with the idea of bringing farming into the ETS but has never committed to a timetable.

Farmers are getting frustrated at the lack of fairness and consistency in some of the proposed policies and the laying of blame solely at the feet of rural New Zealand for all the country’s environmental challenges, says one of the protest organisers, Lloyd Downing.

“The water quality issues are a challenge for all New Zealanders,” he says.

Te Aroha farmer and Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven says policies that increase taxes on farming businesses will not only put their financial viability at risk but also cost jobs and take money out of regional towns and cities that “do well when farmers do well.”

He says the protest is a show of support for farmers who are often "isolated behind their farmgates" and another one is also being planned in the South Island.

"We're calling on farmers to turn up in their utes, and their Swandriis and overalls," he says.

Mr McGiven says farmers are tired and disappointed at negative perceptions in the lead up to the election, particuarly over their environmental performance.

"A lot of the sicence has been cherry-picked and doesn't match up to what we have on farm," he says. "Farmers understand the need for water quality improvements and have been part of the problem in the past but we're also part of the solution in the future."

“Perversely, policies like a water tax also reduce the amount farmers can spend on improving water quality,” he says.

He wants to make the Monday protest a "positive exercise" and is calling for environmental solutions that are "sensible, practical and affordable."

All supporters of rural New Zealand are being invited to support the protest which is being held at midday on Monday in Morrinsville.

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