Farmers plan protests as frustration mounts

Groundswell's "Howl of a Protest" is planned for July 16.
Groundswell's "Howl of a Protest" is planned for July 16. Photo credit: Groundswell NZ

A new policy dubbed a "ute tax" is just the latest move that unfairly targets farmers and growers across the country, farming group Groundswell says.

In order to send a message to the Government that the rural sector has "had enough", thousands of farmers across the country are expected to take their tractors to the streets in protests organised by the group.

"We're not happy," Groundswell spokesperson Bryce McKenzie told Newshub.

The so-called ute tax was announced by the Government last month as part of its Clean Car Package, in a bid to increase the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs).

People who buy EVs will be eligible for rebates or discounts of up to $8625. The rebate will be funded by a fee on purchases of new high-emitting vehicles, such as utes. However, the scheme has come under fire from farmers and tradies who say it's an unfair tax on them as there are no electric vehicles available for their work.

As well as the "ute tax", McKenzie said the group was specifically opposing regulations around freshwater, significant natural areas and indigenous biodiversity - rules he says were introduced without sufficient consultation and are "unworkable" for farmers and growers.

"Forcing things on people that they haven't been consulted on [is] causing a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress and tensions in the rural sector."

He said due to differences in rainfall, topography and soil types throughout the country, there should be different rules for different parts of the country.

"One size does not fit all and that's what we're trying to make quite clear," McKenzie said.

"It's got too much for people to cope with, it's causing severe mental anguish and it needs to be stopped, halted and go back to talking to people about it and having something based on regional areas rather than one-size-fits-all through the whole of New Zealand." 

He said many of the regulations introduced by the Government recently were impossible for farmers to meet.

"They're unworkable regulations. It would be different if farmers could work around them or make them work - they just can't, they're not workable. And then to put the ute tax on top of that without even talking to people about the impact it's going to have is just another nail in the coffin. 

"And to be quite honest, rural people have had enough. Tradesmen have had enough and there's probably a lot of other people who have had enough."

The Government says the Clean Car Package is crucial for the country to address the climate crisis and achieve its goal of having net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It has also defended its policies such as those around freshwater regulations, saying the rules are necessary to stop further degradation of our freshwater resources and improve water quality.

Groundswell's "Howl of a Protest" is planned for July 16, and will take place in more than 50 cities and towns across the country.