As it happened: Farmers take to their tractors in nationwide Groundswell protest

Farmers are protesting in more than 50 towns and cities across the country on Friday to voice their outrage over a "barrage of regulations" they say "aren't fit for purpose".

They are hoping to send a message to the Government that rural communities are not happy with rules over freshwater, significant natural areas, indigenous biodiversity and the so-called 'ute tax'.

Thousands of people are expected to turn out to the protests nationwide.

What you need to know 

  • The protests are being organised by Groundswell NZ, a group formed last year in opposition to the Government's newly introduced freshwater regulations.
  • Farmers are protesting regulations concerning freshwater, significant natural areas, indigenous biodiversity they say are "unworkable and impractical".
  • The protests are taking place in 57 towns and cities across the country.

These live updates have now finished.

5pm - The organiser of Auckland's 'Howl of a Protest', Scott Bright, told Newshub the thousands of farmers rallying together showcases "the seriousness" of the impacts on the rural community.

Farmers say they can't keep up with the costs and the emotional toll of the changes.

"I think people forget where their food comes from sometimes," farmer Laura Carter told Newshub. "No farmers, no food."

Another protester said farmers are "sick of being bullied" by the Government.

4:30pm - Motorists travelling southbound on State Highway 1 at Mercer will be relieved to hear delays in the area have eased.

4pm - Farmer Chris Falconer says the protesters don't speak for all in the rural community.

He told Newshub there are plenty of farmers who are not against all the regulations.

"They only represent the farmers that are on the protests. And I make it very clear that my views are my own, I don't speak for any other farmer and I expect that other farmers will have different views than mine. But I just think it's important that other people understand that despite some of the loud noises coming from other areas there's a whole bunch of us that have different views and different approaches to things.

"There's plenty of us that aren't anti some of the regulations and we're just quietly getting on with doing the things that need to be done." 

3:40pm - Aucklanders are being warned to expect heavy traffic travelling southbound on the Southern Motorway as farmers leave the city.

3:15pm - Traffic in Dunedin has now eased after the protest caused delays for motorists in the city earlier today, Orbus Dunedin says.

2:30pm - Russel Norman says the influx of utes into central Auckland today shows "how stupid double cab utes are in the city".

"Only a hundred protesters travelling into the Auckland CBD have caused traffic jams as one protesters per ute," Norman wrote on Twitter.

1:40pm - Speaking to media today, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said all New Zealanders have the right to protest but "it's important in these situations to be respectful".

When asked if he what he had seen of the protest was respectful, he said "I've seen one or two signs that aren't".

Robertson said the Government had been working closely with rural communities to make sure our economy "remains both fiscally and environmentally sustainable."

"The farming leaders group and others have been a big part of the way that we're making progress on some of these issues. But I understand that at the farm level for some people they're feeling the pressure of that change. What I'd say is we've got to work together on it, just as we worked together to resolve issues around Mycoplasma bovis, just as we worked together to support those who live in rural communities through COVID, just as we worked together to make sure air freight gets out and exports get out. We've just got to keep working together on these things and so yes, people have a right to protest - we'll continue to work with all of those who are interested in how we make sure our economy is sustainable."

He said it was vitally important the Government and famrers worked together to deal with climate change.

"We rely on a stable climate, we rely on our clean green image for the prices that we get overseas. Most farmers realise that, they want to work with us. It is vitally important that we do that not just for the climate change agenda but for clean water and all of the other ways we ensure that we protect the environment that we rely on. The direction of travel here around climate change is both necessary and happening, I do think there are large parts of people in the rural communities who want to be a part of making sure that change is sustainable and we'll keep working with them."   

1:20pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has brushed off suggestions today's protest shows there is a rural-urban divide in New Zealand.

She says she stands by the Government's commitments to the environment.

"We can't stand still. Those challenges are coming at us. But our view is that we'll come up with solutions that are more sustainable and workable, if we come together," she said. "We've done that on M bovis, we've done that on climate issues, and we will continue to work together."

Read the full story on Ardern's response to the protests here.

1pm - Protesters in Greymouth braved rainy weather to turn out at the protest.

As it happened: Farmers take to their tractors in nationwide Groundswell protest
Photo credit: Newshub

12:30pm - Protesters in Amberley turned out to make their views clear.

As it happened: Farmers take to their tractors in nationwide Groundswell protest
Protesters in Amberley, Canterbury.
Protesters in Amberley, Canterbury. Photo credit: Newshub.

12:20pm - Not everyone is supporting farmers though.  Writing on Werewolf, Gordon Campbell says farmers really have nothing to complain about compared to many other New Zealanders.

"A lot of other Kiwis need to worry about finding a place to live, making rent, feeding their kids and keeping their jobs. Many would gladly embrace the alleged plight of the farming sector. In fact, the headlines of late have been all about how remarkably healthy/wealthy the outlook is for NZ dairy farmers," he writes.

12:15pm - Judith Collins has spoken at the protest in Blenheim, giving her support for farmers. She is expected ride a tractor herself shortly. 

12:10pm - Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki has weighed in on the protest, giving a "big cheers to farmers, growers and ute/SUV owners (to which I’m one) who today are out there protesting against the ridiculous policies this out-of-touch government comes up with".

12:00pm - Photos from Dunedin show farmers have turned out in force down south too.

11:45am - Newshub reporter Emily O'Connell says in Christchurch hundreds of farmers and tradies gathered at the AMP showground earlier today and are now making their way into the central city.

"They've got everything you can imagine from tractors to trucks to even farm dogs out today," she says.

11:40am - Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman has responded to the protest online, writing: "They want the cows in mud, rivers full of crap, and none of that te Reo".

11:20am - One farmer in Te Awamutu told Newshub farmers were protesting to say "enough's enough."

"We've all had enough and things have to change."

He said the protesting had been "needing to happen for some time" and it was good to see the rural community come together and have their voices heard.

11:10am - The tractors have now arrived in central Auckland.

As it happened: Farmers take to their tractors in nationwide Groundswell protest
Photo credit: The AM Show

10:45am - Photos from Auckland show bumper-to-bumper traffic as protesters head towards town.

As it happened: Farmers take to their tractors in nationwide Groundswell protest
Photo credit: Newshub

10:40am - National has released a new video criticising the Government's ute tax, saying it will hit farmers in the back pocket.

Judith Collins says the policy "unfairly penalises farmers, tradies and others who rely upon vehicles for which there is no electric alternative".

"Labour never campaigned on the Ute Tax and in fact was categorical in ruling out any new taxes. The rural sector along with almost every New Zealander is being hit in the back-pocket through new taxes, rent increases and costs on businesses," Collins said in a statement on Friday.

"Today the rural sector is standing up and driving their tractors and utes through our towns and cities to send a clear signal to Wellington that they won’t be walked over."

10:35am - Speaking on The AM Show earlier this morning, protest organiser Bryce McKenzie, from Groundswell, said farmers had had enough of a "barrage of regulations" that "aren't fit for purpose". 

He said the ever-increasing rules were leading to stress and anxiety for rural communities, and that the latest move by the Government to impose a so-called 'ute tax' was "the straw that's broken the camel's back".

10:30am - Auckland Transport says a number of buses in the city will be disrupted as the protest heads to Queen St.

As it happened: Farmers take to their tractors in nationwide Groundswell protest
Photo credit: Matt Adams

10am - Traffic has backed up on the Southern Motorway around Drury in South Auckland as a large number of utes and tractors make their way into the central city.

Police say a minor crash has been reported on the motorway and traffic is backed up to Ramarama. Motorists have been told to expect delays.