The No 1 feature of Friday's farmer protest was not the number of people up and down the country who participated. It was not the assortment of vehicles (one wag wondered if the whole thing was not an elaborate publicity stunt by John Deere). It was not the incredible civility of the protesters, especially compared with other groups who've taken over the streets recently (hint, two wheels).
No, the No 1 feature was the warmth of support from urban New Zealand to rural. One city dweller's text to a radio station summed it up: 'I just want to get out and support the farmers.'
The Labour government has achieved something that has eluded many previous governments. It has united urban and rural New Zealand, against themselves. After years of contempt and division, the country came to town, and town welcomed them.
Not only did the howl resonate in the towns. We believes it foretells the future. Once you look at why the farmers howled it is not difficult to see many other groups, most of them urban (like 86 per cent of New Zealand), having a howl of their own.
The farmers are exasperated because they are facing an avalanche of government regulation. Rural New Zealand is slow to anger, but when they arrive, they're angry. The avalanche has been building for some time.
The Zero Carbon Act may yet make them uncompetitive globally, despite being the most carbon-efficient food-producers on Earth. The National Policy Statement on Biodiversity implores councils to confiscate land without compensation. If part of your land is designated a Significant Natural Area, you cannot use it but must still pay rates on it.
Firearms may belong in scary movies from a city perspective, but in the country they are a tool. They are used for tasks such as shooting pests, that would otherwise eat all the grass grown for sheep and cows and leave farmers broke. The government banned many of them with no consultation.
On flat, sealed roads, having a car with a 500kg battery in the floor pan is quite nice. If you're trying to carry heavy goods up a muddy hillside, it is totally impractical. The government specifically decided not to exempt farmers buying utes from the new tax masquerading as a 'feebate' scheme.
Add in freshwater laws. The government made one-size-fits-all laws without considering that New Zealand has a range of climates, topographies, soil types and farming techniques. Southland farmers were told to plant winter crops before December 1, when there are still crop-killing frosts, or don't plant at all. It's not just the injury, it's the insult.
ACT has urban roots. If we can understand these things, so can most townies. But we don't just get it for the farmers. We supported them because we know the same stuff is coming to us too.
Landlords have practically been designated terrorist organisations, under constant assault from new regulations. Even the Mongrel Mob now gets better support from the government. Never mind that the main effect is fewer landlords willing to take a chance on risky tenants.
Employers have been made virtual babysitters, responsible for every aspect of their employee's welfare to higher and higher standards, regardless of productivity. Labour is currently legislating leave to attend parent teacher interviews.
As for getting staff from offshore, forget it. Immigrants have been treated as second-class citizens, with families and lives slashed in half by Labour's fear factory in response to Covid.
All that pales in comparison with the so-called Fair Pay Agreements. They would return compulsory unionism to New Zealand after 30 years of people choosing to leave unions.
Electricity is going up because you can't build generation capacity in this country. Wood is going up because you can't build sawmill capacity, and one player has cornered the market. The cost of living is sure to follow.
Despite all this, the government has bottomless wells of love (and taxpayer money) for gangs, bike bridges and journalists who sign up to the principles of NZ on Air's new public journalism fund.
The revolt started in the country, but there are lots of reasons why it will come to town too.