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by Helen Holt

Organisers of Timaru’s Howl of a Protest say they are ready to take to the streets again if the Government doesn’t “rectify” policies which will adversely affect the rural sector.

Thousands of farmers on tractors and in utes, along with their supporters, flooded into Timaru last Friday, making the protest one of the largest in the country.

The protest began at 11am, tractors being driven towards town from Washdyke and utes from Morgans Rd.

It was expected to end at 12.45pm, but had to be shut down after 2pm because of the large number of vehicles.

Those in South Canterbury joined others around New Zealand protesting against Government regulations deemed unworkable by many farmers. These include freshwater regulations and the Clean Car Package rebate scheme, also known as the “ute tax”.

Groundswell Timaru co-ordinator Roger Small said the turnout was “massive”.

“It was a huge turnout – a lot more than we expected. We believe there were around 400 to 500 tractors and 1000 utes driving through Timaru.

“We tried getting them all down to Caroline Bay [for the] speeches, but there were just so many. We were still trying to shut it down at 2pm so we could clear the traffic.”

Mr Small said he believed Timaru had one of the bigger protests in the country.

“Timaru is in a rural area, so everyone is affected. When something affects farmers, it affects everyone because we’re all interconnected. The large protest showed that everyone has had enough.

“Most businesses were quite supportive, and the public got on well together.

“The ute tax is the last straw. We have not felt support from the Government for a while now.

“The mental health issues have been building for the last two or three years.”

He hoped the Government had listened and would “rectify” the policies, Mr Small said.

If they were not rectified within a month, there would be another protest, he said.