Groundswell organiser says 'racist', 'misogynistic' signs at farming protest 'disappointing'

Organisers of a nationwide protest by farmers last week say it was disappointing some participants took the focus away from their key message by displaying signs with offensive messages.

Demonstrations were held in more than 50 towns and cities across the country on Friday as part of Groundswell's Howl of a Protest, attracting thousands of farmers who turned out in tractors and utes to send a message to the Government.

They were demonstrating against a number of regulations they say are "impractical and unworkable".

Organiser Bryce McKenzie says the protest went "unbelievably well" and feedback from the general public was positive.

"They really bought in to it. They realised that there were some things going on in the rural sector that they didn't know about and they took great interest in trying to find out what it was," McKenzie told Newshub.

Not everyone felt sympathy for the farming community, however, with many people taking offense to a number of signs protesters displayed at the demonstration.

Signs like: "Free NZ from bitch rule", "Cindy→Stalin", "Black utes matter", and "We live in New Zealand not Aotearoa! Stop ramming Maori language down our throat" caused controversy online, with people calling the signs "racist" and "misogynistic".

McKenzie said the signs in question were "definitely not" a fair representation of farmers' views. 

"There is a bit of angst out there but we do not condone the use of any posters that were derogatory at all," he said.

"It's always got to be disappointing when things like that become the centre of attention rather than what the actual protest is about."

When asked about the protest on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said everyone had the right to protest but "it's important in these situations to be respectful".

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

McKenzie said despite the offensive signs, protest organisers were "really grateful for how well-behaved people were".

"It's always a bit of a concern when rural go to town, especially in massive big machines. The potential is it can create a bit of havoc, but they were really understanding and did a magnificent job, and I'd just like to thank all the people for that."

McKenzie said protesters wanted to send a message to the Government that many regulations concerning freshwater, significant natural areas and indigenous biodiversity are simply "unworkable" for farmers and are causing "severe mental anguish" for many in the rural sector.

The recently announced 'ute tax' was just the final straw for farmers and growers who had already "had enough".

He said protesters had given the Government until August 16 "to respond and show they're actually interested in doing something about the things we've spoken about".

"If they don't by then, if they're not prepared to do anything, then we'll reassess."