"Potential criminalisation of farmers."
That is how fourth-generation Southland farmer Laurie Paterson views the controversial new freshwater regulations which have raised ire among the farming community.
Paterson, who farms at Greenvale, near Gore, has teamed up with West Otago farmer Bryce McKenzie to organise a tractor trek to Gore tomorrow to "make a statement".
"I just think it's time to make a stand. These rules ... are just stupid," he said.
The idea was for farmers to drive in their own convoys, from various meeting places around the district, to meet in Gore at 11.30am. While details were still being finalised, there would be addresses by Paterson, McKenzie and Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks.
Back in August, McKenzie mooted a tractor trek to Parliament to show farmers feelings over the regulations, some of which they had no way of complying with.
He later talked to Paterson and the pair — who have 100 years of farming experience between them — decided to organise the Gore event.
Paterson quipped they had a "tiger by the tail" with regards to support for it. The pair had heard of one farmer coming south from Christchurch and borrowing a tractor to drive.
The regulations were "a kick in the guts" for farmers who were already doing "heaps of stuff" to ensure clean waterways and spending a lot of money doing that. They felt they were not appreciated and were being treated "like a bunch of morons", he said.
Paterson said New Zealand was facing serious economic problems and farming, forestry and horticulture were making money for the country at the moment.
And it was not just about farmers, it was about communities; areas like Gore were dependent on primary industries. If farmers had to cut stock numbers back because of the regulations, there would be less money spent in those areas and it would also mean fewer jobs downstream as well.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor has previously said the intent of the regulations was very clear — to clean up the country's waterways. Where the regulations were impractical or unclear, adjustments would continue to be made.
McKenzie, who had been heavily involved with the award-winning Pomahaka Water Care Group, a farmer-led catchment monitoring group, said farmers felt "totally betrayed" after doing so much for water quality.
He had not previously spoken out but the regulations "defied logic".
Those taking part were welcome to continue on to Invercargill on Friday where Southland Federated Farmers and the Southland Chamber of Commerce have joined to organise a Town and Country Hui.
Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young has described it as a show of unity and camaraderie, not a protest.