Next week's "Town and Country hui" is about bringing urban and rural people together over freshwater concerns - just don't call it a protest, says Southland Federated Farmers vice president Bernadette Hunt.
"If people want to protest don't come to this event, that's not what this is for" Hunt told The Muster's Andy Thompson.
Southland Federated Farmers and the Southland Chamber of Commerce are hosting the hui at Queen's Park in Invercargill on October 9.
Hunt said it was a chance for both rural and urban Southlanders to discuss the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020, which came into effect on September 3.
There were widespread concerns about the policy from farmers, and the hui was an important opportunity for them to share those concerns with their urban counterparts, Hunt said.
"Townies and country people alike in Southland, we all rely on the land, so this event is to show that unity about what happens to rural Southland also affects the rest of Southland."
Farmers were encouraged to drive their farm vehicles to the event, a move that Thompson said may bring about negative "tractor trek" connotations.
Hunt disagreed, saying tractors would draw attention to the hui and remind people to head to Queen's Park. However, she admitted there had been protest comparisons.
"We are very aware that lots of people have been calling for a tractor trek and we're not supportive of an event like that at this point, because we're worried about the damage that kind of a protest could do."
Federated Farmers and the Southland Chamber of Commerce had been working hard to ensure the Town and Country hui was a "positive event, done for the right reasons."
"We want to come up with some unity about what we actually want for freshwater in Southland and how we think that could be delivered."
While there would be some formal talks about the freshwater legislation, the event would also focus on social activities, such as a barbecue and farm pets, so that people left "feeling a bit uplifted", Hunt said.
Hunt understood that some people may want to protest, but the Town and Country hui "is not the forum for it".
"If you're wanting to do that - take it somewhere else please. Don't undermine the good work that we're doing."
Thompson said there had been criticism of the event from some farmers who didn't think it went far enough, while others thought it might cause more urban/rural division.
"We can never please everybody" Hunt said.
"We're doing the best we can and doing what we think is right."
Also in this interview: Hunt insisted the election had no bearing on the timing of the Town and Country hui as it was not a political event, and also talked about how the industry felt about the hui.