Two buses of protesters from Tararua and one from Waipukurau joined farmers from around New Zealand on Thursday, November 14, to protest against the pressure they say the Labour Government is putting farmers under.
They assembled at Civic Square in Wellington and were led to Parliament by mayors from Tararua, Tracey Collis, and Wairoa, Craig Little plus councillor Shirley Hull from Tararua District Council.
"I went down to support the farmers that are feeling the impacts from two years of issues from the government," said mayor Collis.
"Along with Craig Little, both of us are getting calls on a regular basis from farmers that are under immense stress.
"There is very little they can do about it.
"Changes have happened so fast.
"A big part of my role is supporting those people on the communities that are under immense pressure. There was a lady who I gave a hug, because her sign read along the lines that what was happening that causes stress and impacts people's lives.
"Her sign indicated she had lost someone to suicide. Really heartfelt emotion — our communities are looking at so much change.
"It's not just farms being sold, it's the people in those communities, the volunteers, the school teachers. They are fearful for what the long-term impacts for them are.
"When all the dairy conversions were happening, people were concerned about that.
"There were no rules to stop that — people voiced those concerns. We've learnt our lesson a little too late. Those farmers were there to say they are seeing the same thing with forestry going in.
"And they know on a dairy farm you can actually stop using the shed and use that land for something else. But when forestry goes in, its a very permanent change. They were signalling we are very worried in our communities about the long-term impacts to the social side and to our land.
"In my lifetime I've only seen this once. This is behaviour that farmers don't do lightly, to travel all that way at a busy time. The ages of the protesters were mixed with young ones very passionate as well — a very wide range of people, you couldn't say they were red necks, to be heard with what's happening in their communities.
"We're not bad people," Mike Butterick said. "We're real people with families, we're intergenerational custodians of our land.
"This is not just about us, it's about our children. We matter and we're not being listened to."
"It was said carbon emitters are not offsetting, they're off-loading and they're abdicating their responsibilities," Mayor Collis said. "There is a lot of ill-feeling around large corporations impacting our rural communities, offsetting their carbon emissions and not changing their behaviours. That's creating an ill-feeling as is the fact farmers can't offset their own emissions.
"If farmers were able to do that it would put some equity back in the situation. But at the moment they're feeling that their health and well-being is not being considered at all.
Many of the Members of Parliament were there listening, especially rural ones. Our MP Alastair Scott was there along with Laurence Yule, Ian McKelvy, Nathan Guy, Barbara Kuriger and Judith Collins. It was a big march with 1200 people present. It was well-received.
"Some of the sheep and beef farmers took their dogs, asking them to "speak up" for a bark-off. For Wellingtonians to see that was pretty impressive.
Mayor Collis walked to Parliament from the Civic Square in heels, leading the march with mayor Craig Little and councillor Shirley Hull dressed as a nurse — she is passionate about rural health.
"Farmers are very clever, there were some great signs."