Central Wellington was clogged with farmers, tractors and cows today, venting their anger against a proposed 'fart tax'.
Hundreds of farmers, about 20 tractors and a similar number of utility vehicles, cars and farm bikes, paraded through Wellington streets before most gathering for a lunchtime rally outside Parliament.
Early in the rally, one of two cows taken on the rally was led up Parliament steps by National MP Lockwood Smith.
The shouting farmers drowned out Science Minister Pete Hodgson as he told them there was potential for agreement on the increased voluntary levies for greenhouse gas research.
The 400 farmers also drowned out Associate Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor as he told them government funding of research on methane emissions from livestock would risk overseas perceptions of a return to subsidies.
Farmers chanted and sang slogans, and cheered when speakers such as National Party leader Bill English, ACT Agriculture spokesman Gerry Eckhoff and United Future leader Peter Dunne spoke.
Mr English said a National government would repeal any tax that was imposed, while Mr Dunne said he believed the proposed tax was "stupid".
Federated Farmers president Tom Lambie, saying farmers would never pay a "fart tax", presented a petition signed by 64,136 people protesting the proposed tax.
Several hundred farmers and supporters earlier gathered at Wellington's Civic Square today for a lunchtime march to Parliament protesting the tax.
The crowd included 100 farmers from Taranaki and several bus loads of Wairarapa farmers.
"There is genuine concern about unrealistic taxes," Mr Lambie told the protesters. "Over 64,000 signatures show the level of concern".
The petition was tangible evidence that not only farmers but all New Zealanders were worried about the potential effects of the Government's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
But though Mr Lambie said there was a concern that the Government had stopped listening to farmers, discussions in the past two days with Science Minister Pete Hodgson and Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton had given "greater recognition" to current industry research into greenhouse gas emission from animals.
"More discussion is needed, but at last the focus is where it should have been all along," Mr Lambie said.
The Government wants to raise about $8 million a year from farmers to help fund research into mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
It is proposing a levy on livestock, which would cost farmers an estimated average of $300 a year each, as it is seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr Lambie said today farmers had earned the right not to be exposed to unrealistic Government policies.
"We hope that recent discussions on research will make any threat to tax evaporate," he said.
Herald Feature: Climate change