Farmers boo Winston Peters at protest against water tax

Several hundred farmers have gathered to protest against a water tax in Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's home town of Morrinsville, with the protest turning sour when NZ First's Winston Peters turned up.

The protesters say farmers are being unfairly targeted with Labour's proposed water tax of 1 or 2 cents per 1000 litres of irrigated water. 

"Us dairy farmers, we have been taking a pounding from New Zealand politicians and our interests and values are at stake," Michelle Wilson from Waihi told the crowd through a loudhailer.

Bob Appleton, who came to the protest onboard tractor 'Myrtle', said he's paid $40,000 towards riparian planting over the past four years and has fenced off all his streams.

"I honestly think they [Labour] buy their food from the supermarket," Mr Appleton said.

"They don't listen to us farmers. We, I think, are the guts of the country. We've got too computerised, and we're an agriculture country, and this water tax thing's stupid."

Myrtle the tractor.
Myrtle the tractor. Photo credit: Newshub.

Labour's water tax has been heavily opposed by the farming sector, with DairyNZ saying it could cost farmers $50,000 a year.

That figure's being labelled "scaremongering" by former Treasury economist Peter Fraser.

Mr Fraser says one in six dairy farmers use irrigated water, with a small group of "mega-farms" using, on average, 1.6 million cubic metres of water each. Even those farms would face a bill of $23,300 at 2 cents a cubic metre, he said.

But at the protest, Mr Peters said Labour wasn't the only party planning to charge for water.

His arrival at the event prompted boos, jeers and cheers from the crowd. Heated exchanges with farmers followed, with Mr Peters alleging National would also raise water charges and refusing to answer questions about what he would do about the water tax if he formed a coalition with Labour.

As Mr Peters addressed the crowd, Mr Appleton noisily started his tractor and drove it through the tightly packed crowd, running over NZ First candidate Stu Husband's foot.

NZ First's Stu Husband after his foot was run over.
NZ First's Stu Husband after his foot was run over. Photo credit: Newshub.

"I'm here to tell you that the two big parties are gonna rip you off on water charges, and you think it's Labour don't you?" Mr Peters said through the loudhailer.

"National's just as bad. I'm telling you guys... You've got a National Party here who's shutting up about deals with Māori in this country."

Mr Peters said evidence of these "secret deals" is in the mail en route to media.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told media on Monday she understands three farms have water consents for irrigation within a 10 kilometre radius of Morrinsville, so the tax would cost farmers there "virtually nothing".

"It is ultimately about making sure our rivers are swimmable again", she said.