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Cars, tractors, dogs, horses and a plane: thousand turn out for nationwide Groundswell protest


In cars, tractors, on horses and even by air, Groundswell protesters took to the streets on Sunday to protest a range of Government legislation including Three Waters reforms and the proposed “ute tax”.

From Auckland to Gore, protesters descended on towns and cities in their thousands, causing gridlock on streets, in the third nationwide protest dubbed the “Mother Of All Protests” against ‘unworkable rules’ and regulations in the rural sector.

Just after midday, a convoy of dozens of tractors and more cars passed were sighted in Newmarket, Auckland, before later causing gridlock in Queen St.

The Mother Of All Protests hits Memorial Ave in Christchurch.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

The Mother Of All Protests hits Memorial Ave in Christchurch.

Overhead, a plane carrying a sign said “we don’t love you anymore Jacinda”.

Meanwhile in Pukekohe, protesters rode on horseback.

READ MORE:
* The eight key issues the Groundswell group is protesting about
* Groundswell: Is the difficult second protest suffering from poor timing and bad friends?
* Groundswell NZ to take to New Zealand’s streets in third nationwide protest

A convoy of tractors rolled into Auckland's city centre just after midday and caused gridlock on Queen St.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

A convoy of tractors rolled into Auckland’s city centre just after midday and caused gridlock on Queen St.

Despite a push prior to Sunday by organisers to stay on message, by asking attendees to adhere to a strict code of conduct and only display signs with pre-approved slogans, many strayed from the advice.

In Auckland, several cars were seen bearing signs with Trump slogans.

However, instead of ‘’MAGA’’ meaning ‘’Make America Great Again’’, many of the protesters have used this acronym to instead spell out ‘’Make Ardern Go Away’’.

Some likened the Government legislation to ‘’apartheid’’ and many made reference of disdain towards Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF

Groundswell NZ’s ‘Mother of all Protests’ brought many tractors, utes and trucks to Christchurch’s Memorial Ave.

The majority carried signs with the pre-approved slogans including “Enough is enough”, “No farmers no food”, and “Toot for farmers”.

Traffic also came to a standstill in Gore, New Plymouth, Timaru and Invercargill.

Protesters also turned out across the Malborough region and in Christchurch, where tractors, trucks, utes and other vehicles lined the edge of Memorial Ave near Burnside Park in the east of the city.

At one point ACT party leader David Seymour stood on the front of a tractor to address the small crowd gathered near the park, while a Groundswell supporter near him waved a flag emblazoned with a slogan directed at the government: “Enough is enough”.

Many tractors were seen in Timaru’s protest.

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

Many tractors were seen in Timaru’s protest.

In Nelson, the convoy of vehicles took nearly 45 minutes to pass through Rutherford St in the city centre – comprising of eight tractors and more than 220 vehicles.

Okaramio farmer Mike Holms scoffed a pie before things got underway at the Marlborough protest. He said he had sold his 600 deer a couple of months ago after the stress of so many regulations and rules became so bad.

“I’ve been in tears about it. I’ve lived on the land all my life, and it was not an easy decision … but we have enough to do without all that paperwork, it’s just me and my wife, and some of it was just unreasonable.”

Protesters on Memorial Ave in Christchurch shared messages about Three Waters and MIQ.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

Protesters on Memorial Ave in Christchurch shared messages about Three Waters and MIQ.

In Southland, Morton Mains dairy farmer Gary Swney took inspiration for his sign from Greta Thunberg’s “blah blah blah” comments about COP26, and said farmers’ concerns were falling on deaf ears as well.

He had been farming for more than 50 years, and said appreciation for farmers had completely reversed in that time, to become non-existent.

A less eventful protest in Wellington saw about 50 vehicles, including two tractors, drive laps around Parliament and were met with a counter-protest by Extinction Rebellion with messaging about climate change.

Protesters cruised the main street in Timaru.

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

Protesters cruised the main street in Timaru.

Police conducted traffic control as Extinction Rebellion protesters stood on the road blocking the vehicles.

At 1.35pm, Groundswell made a radio broadcast ending with an invitation for protesters to go home, despite many around the country sticking at it more than an hour later.

Ahead of the protests, Groundswell organisers publicised their routes, which enabled climate activists to plan a specific counter-protest.

Some protesters in Auckland shared the message: MAGA – Make Ardern Go Away.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Some protesters in Auckland shared the message: MAGA – Make Ardern Go Away.

In an effort to stop other protesters or counter-protesters stealing attention from their mission, Groundswell national co-ordinators put out statements, telling their group members to stay in their vehicles, even if climate protesters attempted to block the way.

“It is the intention of the Groundswell protest to cause no more disruption than is necessary for the protest,” the co-ordinators said in a social media post on Sunday morning.

“Groundswell cannot control what other people do, but our supporters should be aware that if you are out of vehicles, and you are carrying placards there may be an assumption that you are part of another protest.”

A convoy of dozens of tractors and more cars passed the Mountain Rd overbridge in Newmarket, Auckland. The lead tractor bore a sign “This Govt hates farmers”.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

A convoy of dozens of tractors and more cars passed the Mountain Rd overbridge in Newmarket, Auckland. The lead tractor bore a sign “This Govt hates farmers”.

This extensive effort to focus the protest on regulations affecting farmers – and nothing else – comes after those with anti-vaxx, anti-Government and racist signs hijacked the farmers’ “howl of a protest” in July.

National organiser Bryce McKenzie said those groups distracted from the purpose of the protest.

While he acknowledged there wasn’t much anyone could do to stop others becoming involved, McKenzie said he hoped anyone who showed up without pre-approved signs, or those supporting unrelated causes, would leave.

A counter-protest was staged by Extinction Rebellion in Wellington.

Kevin Stent/Stuff

A counter-protest was staged by Extinction Rebellion in Wellington.

The counter-protest staged by climate activist groups, including Generation Zero and Extinction Rebellion, added a further dynamic.

“Groundswell NZ is about positivity and respect. We will be rejecting those who try to hijack this day with their own causes,” Groundswell said in a statement ahead of Sunday’s protests.

The Groundswell “grassroots rural movement” behind nationwide protests on Sunday wants changes to eight areas of government policy.

Tractors and utes did a loop around the Beehive. One woman carried a sign saying ‘Ardern mad cow’.

KEVIN STENT/Stuff

Tractors and utes did a loop around the Beehive. One woman carried a sign saying ‘Ardern mad cow’.

Seven of the issues are largely unchanged since the movement’s first protest – the “Howl of a Protest” – in July, during which an estimated 60,000 people drove tractors, trucks and utes down main streets in more than 50 places across the country.

The new issue since then is the Government’s Three Waters Reform Programme.

The group’s website said it was seeking a halt to, and a rewrite of, unworkable regulations, covering freshwater, indigenous biodiversity, climate change, and the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill.



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