Climate activists plan to disrupt Groundswell protest, organiser suggests they watch Country Calendar instead

Climate activists are planning to disrupt this weekend's Groundswell NZ 'Mother of all Protests' in Wellington by sitting down in front of the group's tractors. 

Groundswell describes itself as a "grassroots rural movement" which wants a complete overhaul of "unworkable regulations" relating to water, climate change and biodiversity. The website for this weekend's protest was registered by the Taxpayers' Union.

But its past events have made headlines thanks to off-topic and off-colour messages, and some of the group's members - including its Hamilton organiser - have shared racist material online.

Its Wairarapa chapter pulled out of this Sunday's event over fears anti-vaccination activists will drown out Groundswell's core message, despite one of the group's leaders associating with the likes Brian and Hannah Tamaki, who've spread misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines, and declined to take part in a pro-vaccination DairyNZ initiative

Extinction Rebellion's (XR) Wellington chapter said on Friday it would rather the Government "get some guts and take much stronger action to tackle the climate crisis and protect our natural world", while Groundswell "rejects even the smallest beginnings of these measures".

"These Groundswell protests are about challenging the necessary changes that we need to make to ensure mine and all our tamariki have a future on a liveable planet," said Te Wehi Ratana, an ex-dairy farmer who said he's seen first-hand "the destructive, polluting practises" carried out by Kiwi farmers.

"With placards in the last Groundswell demo showing racism, hatred of female leaders, and anti-vax ideology, they are a discredit to New Zealand farmers," added activist Sue Boyde. 

They plan to sit down in front of Groundswell's tractors on Lambton Quay, blocking the protesters' path through the city. 

Protests are planned in dozens of centres nationwide. Groundswell's Wellington organiser Tim Hawley told Newshub he didn't know "much about [XR] at all" and questioned their integrity. 

"They can say what they like, but if the farmers get in the shit, we're all in the shit. I think those people have not been businesspeople… I don't like greenies at all because they don't practise what they preach, most of them." 

Labour MP Stuart Nash earlier this week in Parliament described Groundswell's views as a "mixture of racism, anti-vax etc". 

Hawley said it was a "load of crap" that Groundswell had anything to do with the anti-vaxxer movement, nor were they sexist or racist.

"My personal opinion is I can't stand the Prime Minister we've got, but I'm not alone. I know lots of women who feel the same as I do. I don't hate women, that's absolutely ridiculous."

Groundswell, perhaps preempting anyone bringing along a sign comparing the Prime Minister to Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin, calling her a "bitch" or claiming she's "ramming Māori language down our throats", has put on its website a list of "approved slogans". They include "toot for farmers", "no farmers - no future" and "enough is enough". The latter was infamously used by the Tamakis in 2004 for their anti-gay marriage march in 2004. 

"Groundswell have put out signs on specific subjects - nothing to do with racism or climate change at all," said Hawley, a retired businessman who wasn't a farmer himself.

"We're sick of them getting ear-bashed, and we're sick of a lot of things actually… There's a lot more things that I don't like. I'm not alone."

He said farmers know their industry isn't "perfect", but said many are doing what they can to reduce their environmental impact - and suggested their opponents watch classic Kiwi TV show to get a new perspective. 

"I don't think these people watch Country Calendar, but I make a point of watching it every Sunday. It's a very good programme and it's very uplifting."