Farmers to protest in Jacinda Ardern's hometown of Morrinsville
Waikato farming leaders are rallying their rural reserves for a protest against what they call "continued attacks" on rural New Zealand in Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's home town of Morrinsville.
The protest on September 18 is being organised by Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president Andrew McGiven and Morrinsville farmer Lloyd Downing.
McGiven said farmers were tired at being made a scapegoat by politicians looking to score political points in the leadup to the election.
"It's a good reason to hold it in Morrinsville because it's systematic of a rural service town. If there's a downturn in the primary sector, towns like Morrinsville will follow in three or four months."
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Every dollar that was earned inside the farmgate lifted to about $8 once it was exported and it was towns such as Morrinsville that would suffer if these proposed taxes went ahead, he said.
"What I want it to be is a show of unity and support for farmers for all of those issues. The problems we are facing as a rural community are a whole of community problem, not just farmers. We're asking farmers to show up in force."
Morrinsville farmer Lloyd Downing said farmers and farming communities were not punching bags for urban politicians.
"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 of our environmental challenges is what is frustrating farmers - particularly when it is well known that the most polluted waterways are in urban catchments.
"The water quality issues are a challenge for all New Zealanders. Farmers recognise that, and are spending tens of thousands of dollars each on reducing their environmental impact."
While both farmers are members of Federated Farmers, the protest was not an event sanctioned by the organisation.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern started her election campaign in Morrinsville in August where she visited her former school and fish and chip shop where she got her first job.
If in government, Labour would impose royalty on water of around 2c per 1000 litres and the money would be given to councils and iwi to restore waterways.
Labour has also promised to bring animal emissions from livestock into the Emissions Trading Scheme and their potential coalition partner the Green Party has proposed a nitrate pollution tax.
McGiven said new taxes on farming was not the right way to address environmental problems.
"It will just reduce the disposable income that farmers have that we might have put aside for environmental initatives."
Many farmers saw themselves as guardians of the land and wanted to give it to the next generation in a better state than what it was found.
"That's my philosophy. No one owns the land, we only look after it for a short period of time."
McGiven hoped the protest would show people farmers do care about the environment and farmers had made great strides in this space without getting a lot of credit.
Many farmers had already made significant investments in the environment including fencing, planting, wetland creation, sediment traps and the creation of QEII covenanted land.
McGiven said the attacks had gone beyond concerns over water quality. The wet winter and early spring combined with the negative sentiment from the election was taking a big toll on the mental health of farmers.
Many farm businesses were still highly leveraged from the loans they borrowed when dairy prices crashed and the new taxes being proposed were creating a hugely stressful situation for many, he said.