By GUY WILLIAMS
Closeburn Station manager Grant McMaster will be behind the wheel of his tractor on a jaunt through central Queenstown tomorrow.
As local coordinator of a protest aimed at a slew of new and proposed government regulations affecting farmers, he’s likely to have a posse with him.
McMaster tells Mountain Scene he’s hoping for a good turnout of Whakatipu farmers, primary industry workers, tradies and other ute owners on ‘A Howl of a Protest’.
That’s the name of a nationwide event being organised by Groundswell NZ, a group started by Bryce McKenzie, of West Otago, and Laurie Paterson, of Southland.
The pair are urging farmers and ute owners to take their tractors, utes, and dogs to towns across the country to protest what they’re calling ‘‘increasing government interference in your life and business, unworkable regulations and unjustified costs’’.
Those regulations include freshwater and winter grazing, significant natural areas, indigenous biodiversity and the ‘‘ute tax’’, a new rebate scheme that places a fee on higher-emission vehicles, with the revenue used to fund rebates for buyers of new electric or hybrid cars.
McMaster says he’s had plenty of interest, but because there’s no registration process, he won’t know actual numbers until people turn up on the day.
‘‘We’re hoping the tradies will support this one.
‘‘It’s not just about the ute tax, but basically all the unworkable regulations that affect farmers, growers, landowners, businesses and councils.
‘‘It’ll impact us all, and the ute tax will certainly affect Queenstown.’’
They’re meeting at the Remarkables Farm woolshed, opposite the Remarkables skifield turn-off, at 11am, and expecting to be on the road about noon.
The convoy will head into Frankton and proceed along Hawthorne Drive around the airport before making a beeline into central Queenstown along Frankton Road.
It will pass through the town centre on Stanley and Shotover Streets before dispersing at One Mile.
McMaster says he’s backing the protest because he believes the vast majority of farmers are prepared to do their share of achieving the country’s emissions reduction targets.
‘‘Nobody disagrees with it — there’s no doubt things need to change, and we’re prepared to change.’’
But measures like the ute tax only punish farmers when they don’t have an alternative yet, he says.
‘‘I have no doubt that when they have tractors or utes that are electric and can get up to the places we need to go, we’ll be lining up for them.
‘‘But until then, we shouldn’t be punished for keeping New Zealand going.
‘‘People have to eat, and people have to be able to get around.’’