Hundreds of green crosses pop up on roadsides in new silent rural sector protest

Hundreds of green crosses are popping up on roadsides as part of a new silent protest by the rural sector.

It's been organised by the group 'Your Food Producers' in response to what it calls unreasonable regulations.

Green crosses have lined the roadsides in Auckland and Waikato, symbolising the potential demise of food producers under what's being called a "tsunami of legislation".

"Feeling a bit battered and bruised," Your Food Producers' Rosemarie Costar said.

Costar warned more legislation - such as new animal welfare requirements, emissions levies and land use restrictions - equals more costs.

"It can push the cost of food production up significantly. It's really important that legislation is fit for purpose," Costar said.

AgResearch senior research scientist Robyn Dynes agreed.

"The rural population is dealing with a lot of regulation coming their way all at once - and it is a lot to grapple with," Dynes said.

Protests against it aren't new - in 2003 when the 'fart tax' was proposed, hundreds of farmers descended on Parliament.

In 2022, we saw Groundswell supporters take to the streets in tractors - demanding to be listened to, shaping it up to be a key election issue again.

"This is certainly something that will be rearing its head in the election," political commentator Ben Thomas said.

Thomas said it could result in the National Party claiming back the seats it lost three years ago.

"It's really going back to the norm after that 2020 red wave that National lost a lot of provincial seats that it would never have imagined that it would."

National Party leader Chris Luxon was in Gore on Friday to try and woo the farmers.

"We back farmers, we back the sector - we've got to turn it around," Luxon said.

The Minister for Primary Industries, Damien O'Connor, wasn't available for an interview but said in a statement he's committed to setting the lowest emissions levy possible for farmers. 

"Farmers are the backbone of our economy - our shared goal is supporting farmers to grow their exports, reduce emissions, and maintain our agricultural sectors' international competitive edge into the future. Since coming into office we have worked successfully with the sector and have seen exports grow by 39 percent, with record highs of over $53 billion as of June 2022," O'Connor said.

He said if people do not future-proof their exports by meeting the "environmental credentials" people risk getting left behind.

"Our farmers are already among the most efficient in the world, but the international focus is on reducing total emissions and our efforts remain focused on working together to achieve this."

Farmers are urging him to listen.

"We are absolutely not anti-regulation, we just want good regulation that achieves a purpose," Costar said.

They hope the green crosses spread their message nationwide.