Last week on Friday, July 16, the majority of city-dwelling Kiwi-Indian migrants began their mornings with a sudden barrage of national media coverage of a farmer's protest the 'Howl of a Protest' that planned to bring rural communities on city roads in more than 50 urban centres all around the country.
For a majority of the Kiwi-Indian community, this "howl of a protest" managed to make a deafening sound, to an extent generating instant attention and sparking their curiosity about "farmers protest in New Zealand."
Their curiosity is rooted in two main factors; first and foremost is their relative ignorance about New Zealand's rural communities and the farming sector. This is more for the city-dwelling Kiwi-Indian migrant communities who have largely lived in urban centres, big and small, and are supremely unaware of rural life. And this is despite thriving Kiwi-Indian farming communities who have for generations been living in farms in rural New Zealand.
The city-dwelling Kiwi-Indian migrant communities are less aware of the rural-urban divide in New Zealand and are supremely oblivious to the key issues, and challenges, real or imaginary, that have forced farmers to come out in a protest - that many agree was one of the most successful farmer protests in recent years.
The other, and possibly more determining reason for the curiosity within the Kiwi-Indian community towards the "farmers protest in New Zealand," was the similarity – perceived or real – with a similar protest of farmers back in India.
For the uninitiated, only a few months ago, India has witnessed a massive farmer protest in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic that not only attracted global attention but also created a polarising effect within Indian diasporic communities all around the world, including the Kiwi-Indian communities.
Therefore, there is a natural urge amongst many in the community to know more about "farmers protest in New Zealand" and try to understand it through the lens (which is anyway a skewed lens) of farmer protest in India.
It is important to note that "farming" is an emotive issue in most of the nations around the world and generates a lot of emotions every time farmers come out in protest against any real or perceived grievances.
Organised by Groundswell NZ
The "howl of a protest" movement was organised by an organisation called Groundswell New Zealand, with a nationwide protest planned at more than 50 places around the country to protest against the Government's new farming and environmental regulations, which they believe are unworkable.
Groundswell NZ was founded by two farmers Bryce McKenzie and Laurie Paterson, from the South Island town of Gore, with a goal of bringing together farmers against some of the recent decisions taken by the Government around farming and environmental regulations.
"I was having a rant at the news on the TV about the Government's new freshwater rules, and my wife Karen told me to do something about it," McKenzie said in an interview with Stuff.
"So I wrote a post on Facebook, and the next day a joker from over Waikaka way [Paterson] rung me up, and we decided to organise a tractor protest in Gore. We knew who each other were, but we didn't really know each other, but we figured we had one tractor each, so that was a good start," McKenzie said.
Subsequently, that protest in Gore witnessed a convoy of 120 tractors parading in the main street of Gore.
This initial success emboldened the farmer duo, and they further planned for a nationwide protest on Friday, July 16, whereby urging farmers to come out with their tractors and Utes as a mark of protest against the Government's recent decisions for the farming sector.
What happened on the protest day?
There was traffic disruption around the country on Friday, with convoys of tractors and utes with dogs on board arriving in dozens of centres around New Zealand.
In Auckland, 100 tractors made their way into central Auckland, along the motorway to Queen Street and the Ellerslie racecourse.
Some farmers heading into Auckland missed the turnoff to the city and took the scenic route, driving their tractors over the Harbour Bridge.
Hundreds joined the convoy with a lap of the downtown area before gathering at Ellerslie Events Centre.
Traffic crawled through central Dunedin as dozens of vehicles taking part moved through the city from midday.
Utes and tractors stretched for more than 5km on Dunedin's Southern Motorway.
Other major urban centres also witnessed protesting farmers on the road and the accompanying traffic disruption and gridlock.
What are the main perceived issues of grievances?
It is reported that protesting farmers had many issues around new rules and legislations brought by the Government in the last couple of years, such as the "Ute tax," winter grazing regulations, national policy statement for freshwater management, biodiversity management and others.
Primarily, the protestors demanding a change in the Government's increasing interference, unworkable regulations and unjustified costs.
The reform introduced regulation on fencing off waterways, reporting nitrogen use and changes to winter grazing practices to protect animal welfare.
It is important to note that like everywhere else in life, views and support within the farming community for this farmer protest in New Zealand is also not homogenous and is divided across the spectrum.
Many people speaking on behalf of the farming community were of the opinion that farmers had been doing their bit for a long time, and the protest might paint all farmers as climate deniers who did not care about the environment.
Groundswell NZ is not opposed to improving freshwater quality or sustainable land use, but it wants the Government to scrap its freshwater policies and leave regional councils and catchment groups to work on improving freshwater.
Different political party's views on this farmers protest is not expected line with opposition parties National and ACT supporting the protest saying that the Government is throttling down unrealistic measures on the farming and trading community, while those in the government Labour and the Green Party having other views.
What does Opposition Parties say about it?
National Party fully supported the "howl of a protest" movement and had ensured that its caucus members had a nationwide presence at different centres as a mark of support to the farmers.
The Party is among the most ardent critics of the Government's electric car rebate scheme and has said it will immediately reverse the policy if returned to power.
The leader Judith Collins attended the protest at Blenheim and delivered a short speech to the farmers.
Act Party leader David Seymour said farmers are fighting an uphill battle against regulation.
The Indian Weekender spoke with Seymour, who joined protesters at Ellerslie racecourse ground, Epsom, Auckland, asserted that there was "too much regulations and government involved" in managing the complex climate change challenges.
He also told the Indian Weekender that the Government was working on a "one size fit all" approach, which was wrong and suggested that moves such as bringing in national-level rules for winter cropping should be localised.
What does govt say about it?
The views of the Labour and Green Party were on expected lines – asserting that the fight against climate change and for preserving biodiversity was also important.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came out on social media on Friday night asserting that it was important that the country stuck to the commitments it had made on freshwater and climate change, which would help New Zealand maintain the value of its exports.
"My commitment is that we will keep working together ... we'll keep listening on things like the pressure on our borders around workers, we've given already an allocation to dairy farmworkers, and today you would have seen that we announced an extension for our workforce who are already here, our essential work visa holders.
"...and so, we will keep working together, no matter how big the challenges are. That is my commitment," she said.
The Green Party acknowledged farmers have been asked to accept significant change but said the climate crisis demands urgent action.
Green's environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage said she'd like to hear some solutions from the protesters rather than complaints.
She said the Government had provided huge support to help farmers make changes.
Groundswell NZ, the group behind the farmer's protest, has put the Government on notice, giving it a month (August 16) to listen to farmers and work towards an acceptable outcome, or further action would be taken.