Hundreds of farmers have gathered in Ardern's hometown of Morrinsville to protest against Labour and Greens' proposed water and pollution charges.

The protest ended with NZ First leader Winston Peters being jeered at and drowned out by Myrtle the tractor as farmers demanded he say whether he would side with National or Labour.

About 600 turned up for the lively rally beside the giant 'Mega Cow' statue in Morrinsville - politicians were not allowed to speak but Peters hijacked the stage at the end as the rain started to tip down.

Read more: Jacinda Ardern downplays impact of water tax


As he held court standing in the rain under the cow - warning them to be just as dubious of National as Labour when it came to water "because they're just as bad as each other - the crowd started to jeer and heckle at him.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks to farmers during a rally held at the 'Mega Cow' in Morrinsville. Photo / Alan Gibson
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks to farmers during a rally held at the 'Mega Cow' in Morrinsville. Photo / Alan Gibson

Afterwards Scott Smyth bailed him up about whether Peters would allow the proposed water taxes to go ahead if in coalition with Labour. Peters would not answer and other farmers pitched in demanding to know who he was going to go with.

Afterward Smyth said Peters was "buggering" his chances for Saturday's election by not saying if he would demand Labour removed the water taxes from the table if he was in Government with them.

"I expect him to say what's he's likely to do, particularly if he goes with Labour which let's face it is something of a threat to us."

Peters was not the only politician at the event - National MPs David Bennett, Louise Upston and Barbara Kuriger were there but did not speak.

The crowd was predominantly local farmers although some had come from the Taranaki, Northland, and the Hawkes Bay. They spilled out onto the adjacent yards on the main road through Morrinsville and on the side of the road.

Farmers feel they have been made a target during the election. Photo / Alan Gibson
Farmers feel they have been made a target during the election. Photo / Alan Gibson

Although it was not supposed to be a political rally, some carried placards aimed at Labour and leader Jacinda Ardern - such as "she's a pretty communist" and, on Myrtle the Tractor, "Jacinda + the Mob thinks food grows in supermarkets" and 'fart red for Labour."

There were also two National supporters sporting 'Townies for Farmers' placards.


Organiser, local farmer and Federated Farmers rep Andrew McGiven told the crowd it was not a political rally but was aimed at giving the farmers the chance to rebut some of the accusations they felt had been levelled at them.

His fellow organiser Lloyd Downing said it was held under the Mega Cow to show the media what a cow actually looked like. He said he was sick of seeing footage of beef cattle in a story about dairy farming.

Prior to Peters' interruption the rally was a good natured affair.

Andrew McGiven, rally organiser, local farmer and Federated Farmers representative,
said the high turnout showed farmers were sick of the bad rap they were getting in the lead up to the election.

"We are not easy pickings for politicians and their taxing strategies.

By taxing farmers out of the game this is not the right way of addressing these issues. Extra taxes will delay any return to profitability and have a detrimental effect on our communities.


Let's face it, you can't be green if you're in the red and even vegans need farmers."

He invoked Fred Dagg: "if it weren't for your farmers, New Zealand, where would you be."

He ended with a plea to "our urban cousins" to try to understand farming more. "New Zealand is too small to have a rural urban divide."

Morrinsville Chamber of Commerce head Nigel McWilliam said it was a chance to share the good stories about farming and joked about the high rainfall in the Waikato that spring.

"My old science teacher told me the solution to pollution is dilution and after all the rain we had in the Waikato I don't think we've got a problem with the waterways at all. In fact, I think we've got a whole lot of new ones."

He said the dairy industry was vital to Morrinsville.


"You are the cream of the country."

Organiser Lloyd Downing said farmers knew about their environmental impact and had collectively spent $1 billion to fix it. There was still more to do, but he said a carrot rather than a stick was needed.

"Because by the time they tax us, by the time the Maoris [sic] get their cut, the taxman gets their cut, the lawyers get their cut and Parliament takes their cut, there's going to be bugger all money for the environment anyway."

He said his grandchildren wanted to be able to swim in the rivers just as others' did. "We just want to make sure everybody pays because it's a New Zealand problem not just the farmers' problem."

Some at the rally were highlighting media stories about sewage spills on Auckland beaches to proved that.

There was also some rural humour on display - Downing took a jibe at the media, saying some could not tell the difference between dairy cows and beef cattle. "I had to remind one yesterday that beef cattle have got balls and cows have got tits.


One is hamburgers, one is yoghurt."

Michelle Wilson, a dairy farmer and former chair of the Dairy Women's Network, said farmers had "taken a pounding" from politicians.

She said farmers were more than people who milked cows - they were business people and community leaders. She said much of the debate about farmers' work was "emotive, uninformed drivel."

The positive contribution they made was rarely acknowledged.