Groundswell wants apology from Stuart Nash for 'totally wrong' suggestion they're anti-vaxxers, racists

Groundswell wants an apology from senior Government minister Stuart Nash, who last week suggested the group was full of anti-vaxxers and racists

Groundswell protests unfolded across New Zealand on Sunday with hundreds turning out. The farming advocacy group has been protesting against what it says are unworkable regulations.

Last week Economic and Regional Development Minister Nash, answering questions in Parliament on behalf of Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor, queried Groundswell's beliefs after the group made headlines for racist comments made by one of their members

"I'm not too sure what Groundswell stands for these days and that is what I have read on their website," Nash told MPs on Thursday. "It's a mixture of racism, anti-vax, etc."

Speaking to The AM Show, Groundswell protest organiser Bryce McKenzie said Nash should apologise.

"I certainly would like him to apologise because what he said was totally wrong and was definitely said just to discredit us.

"We've never mentioned vaccinations and we don't mention anything racially, we've never done that so where he got that information from, I have no idea."

Newshub has contacted Nash's office for a response.

Groundswell has previously distanced itself from controversy, including "racist" appearing signs at its protest in July. McKenzie said on Monday protests were difficult to manage.

"If you're holding a protest… the membership's not going to stop those people turning up. It's very, very difficult to manage something like that, anyway."

Groundswell wants apology from Stuart Nash for 'totally wrong' suggestion they're anti-vaxxers, racists
Photo credit: Newshub.

The group also distanced itself from a supporter's "racial and abusive" viral email about the He Puapua report and Māori favouritism in September. 

McKenzie said the Government "hasn't met us" and wanted them to know "farmers are dealing with COVID just like urban people".

"Every conversation is about COVID, so that's going on in the background all the time. Then what we're getting is this raft of regulations, most of them are unworkable or not actually fit for purpose in certain areas - and we feel we haven't even been consulted about them."

McKenzie said the Government needed to hear their pleas.

"We're actually coming through to Wellington on Thursday. We have a delivery of a number of thousand letters to go to our Minister of Agriculture, Damien O'Connor, who's not going to be there so we're looking for someone else to deliver them to."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she didn't share Nash's views.

"What [Groundswell] were originally calling for, in my mind, are absolutely issues that we've been addressing," she told The AM Show.

"I know that, actually, a large part of our primary sector share the same concerns that we do.

"Whether it's issues around intensive winter grazing or area stock exclusion, we've worked really hard alongside the sector to make sure we get those rules right."

Ardern said New Zealand needed to do its bit on environmental issues as well.

She rejected the idea the likes of the Government's freshwater regulations was a "one size fits all" regime.

"There's a number of areas within the freshwater work that we've been doing that actually has taken in the practical implications for rolling the programme out," Ardern said. 

"We've got to come back to [the] first principles: 'Why are we doing this in the first place?' Because too many of our rivers and waterways were degrading, weren't swimmable."