Groundswell New Zealand co-founders Bryce McKenzie and Laurie Paterson have distanced themselves from the people who attended their protests with racist and abusive signs, saying those people are not part of Groundswell.
In an interview with John Campbell aired as part of last night's 1 News Special: Anger, Anxiety & Us, the co-founders said Groundswell protests are against over-regulation of farming by the Government and that many who attended diverted attention from that, with references to Trump and MAGA and accusing Ardern of being a communist, among other things.
Some signs at the protests also spread racist anti-Māori messages, which the founders say has absolutely nothing to do with them.
Despite incidents of Groundswell protesters clashing with climate change activists, McKenzie and Paterson say they are not climate change deniers.
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"Of course [climate change] is happening, we live in the climate every day," Paterson told Campbell. "We're not sitting in an office somewhere with the heat pump on 18, working in our shirtsleeves. Farmers know that the climate is changing, of course they do."
"It's really hard, when you set up something that's gonna cover the whole of New Zealand and it happens really quickly, you get a bit stifled with your ability to actually be able to check people out," McKenzie said, explaining how the farmers' protests have been infiltrated by people spreading messages they do not agree with.
Confronted with some of the offensive signs shown at protests, including one against speaking te reo Māori in New Zealand, McKenzie said that has "absolutely nothing at all" to do with Groundswell.
"I don't know how we could ever avoid it because it's a protest and people turn up," McKenzie said.
"The very first protest Laurie and I did in Gore ... Laurie was first, I was second, guess who got in between us at the roundabout? A guy with a 1080 banner, which we never ever had. That's how easy it is for people to go in the wrong direction," he added.
The founders state that they categorically disagree with those signs.
"We have no time for racism and anything abusive," Paterson said.