Home > A Little Blue Marble Called Earth, The Body Politic > Farmers: “get govt off our backs!”

Farmers: “get govt off our backs!”

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16 July: Farmers mounted their “Groundswell” protest throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. “Thousands” supposedly participated, driving tractors, utes, vans, trucks and any other wheeled vehicle within reach. Despite being “people of the land”, not many appeared mounted on horse-back, judging by photos;

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The response from other New Zealanders to the farmers’ protest was less than enthusiastic and possibly did more to reinforce the perception of entitlement; refusal to accept reality, and sheer whinging, rather than any real grievance they might have.

As equity manager for 1,000-cow Canterbury dairy farm, Craig Hickman, put it, writing for Stuff media;

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Curiously, despite his criticism, Mr  Hickman described the “Goundswell” protest as the “very first successful farmer protest“.

Mr Hickman went on to warn “I don’t know if the Government will take any notice. Maybe it should if Labour wants to return to power unencumbered by a coalition partner” – as if re-election should always be the number one priority for a government?

Where should survival for our civilisation, and future of our species rank, for Mr Hickman?

But Mr Hickman was correct in some respects. The protest certainly attracted it’s fair share of cranks. From the deluded;

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— to the bizarre;

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cranks nutters rabid rightwingers groundswell farmers protest

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— to the outright racist;

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It was Open Field Day for the Cranks from both rural and urban communities.

One – spread widely through social media and promoted unwittingly by at least one right-wing blog – was fake;

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The image had been mis-appropriated; re-branded; and used to promote the “Groundswell” event. It was actually an image of a protest from The Netherlands, two years ago.

Unfortunately for those farmers taking part, Nature had other plans in store for us…

17 July: The wildest weather to hit the South Island (and felt throughout the North as well) struck the following day. The storm battered the West Coast; flooding the top of the South Island; states of emergency declared in Marlborough and Buller; Picton, Westport, Tākaka, Collingwood, Murchison, Springs Junction and Nelson were cut off; Spring Creek and Tuamarina townships evacuated; bridges damaged and destroyed, properties flooded.

The Metservice warning was unambiguous;

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… and the rest of the country would not be escaping either;

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The human toll became evident very quickly;

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25 July: It was against this backdrop that, nine days after the farmer protest and eight days after the storm that lashed the country, TVNZ’s Q+A current affairs programme interviewed NIWA’s principal Climate Scientist, Dr Sam Dean,

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Host/Interviewer, Jack Tame prologued the interview with a frightening litany of extreme weather events over the last two months;

  • record rainfall and flooding in China;
  • a heatwave in Siberia resulting in wildfires;
  • record temperature of 34 degrees reached in Finland and Norway near the Arctic circle;
  • Antarctica reached a new record – 18 degrees celsius;
  • extreme flooding in Germany and Belgium resulting loss of life;
  • over a thousand people were killed during a recent heatwave in the United States and smoke pollution from American forest fires on the West Coast sent a smoky haze over New York.,
  • And torrential rain causing flooding throughout the South Island here in Aotearoa New Zealand…

Against this back-drop, Jack Tame asked Dr Dean the question to which most* of us already knew the answer to;

“How much of the damage and destruction can we directly attribute to climate change, and should  scientists and the media be doing more to link climate disasters with human caused climate change?”

Dr Dean was candid with his answers; climate change was not a “something-in-the-future” for us – the effects were happening very here-and-now;

“…talking about how climate change has altered the world we live in already makes it more real for people.”

Jack Tame pointed out the irony of the farmers’ “Groundswell” protest – followed the next day by a severe weather event likely to be influenced by climate change.

Dr Dean did not mince his words in response referring to the crazy events. He pointed out that we all faced consequence to our actions. He called on farmers to lead or face the consequences of  regulations.

“We need to stop burning coal. We need to stop burning oil… New Zealand is importing vast amounts of coal at the moment to generate electricity and we have to stop doing that. We have to stop burning coal and polluting the atmosphere.”

He admitted to being scared as human are doing crazy things ; the rate of change was beyond anything evolution has prepared us for.

Dr Dean referred to humanity facing an existential threat.

He warned that now was the chance to keep temperature increase below 2 degrees – and not just by planting trees. He explicitly stressed the need to reduce emissions.

Otherwise we would be experiencing more severe flooding and sea level rise by fifteen centimetres within twenty years.

He warned that a 2 degrees warming would be significant – using air conditioners to cool us in winter and not much snow.  Aotearoa New Zealand, Dr Dean warned, would be a very different place.

He said the extreme temperatures in North America were very scary.

Dr Dean talked plainly. No jargon. Just plain common sense. Especially because – deep in our hearts – we already understood what he was telling us.

In many ways he reminds this blogger of that other well-known scientist and advocate, Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

We are fortunate to have the likes of scientists who share their knowledge, experience, and courage to become the public face of critical problems that confront us. They shed light on issues and problems we ignore at our peril.

Whether it is Dr Wiles cautioning and encouraging us to take covid19 seriously or Dr Dean warning us that climate change is no longer “something in the future” – they are the voices of reason we dare not casually dismiss.

Remember how, only three years ago, the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser Dr Peter Gluckman, mercilessly attacked and debunked the hysteria surrounding meth contamination in housing?

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The full interview with Dr Dean is only fourteen minutes long. It is well worth listening to.

And as Jack Tame and Dr Dean both pointed out, it put the farmers protest – especially over the so-called “ute tax” into perspective.

The hysteria over the “ute tax” was inexplicable considering how little actual impact it would have on farmers and tradespeoples’ pockets.

According to NZTA/Waka Kotahi, the maximum fees for dirty vehicles is set at $5,175 for new imports and $2,875 for used imports. As the NZTA/WK chart shows here;

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However…

Put into context, those fees are not as onerous as rural activists have been led to believe.

According to the Ministry of Transport, the average age of Aotearoa New Zealand’s vehicle fleet is considerable (something many of us already knew);

The average age of New Zealand’s light passenger vehicle fleet has increased from 11.7 years in 2000 to 14.4 years in 2017, which is older than that in the United States (11.6 years for cars and light trucks in 2016), Australia (10.1 years for all vehicles in 2016), Canada (9.3 years for light vehicles in 2014), and Europe (7.4 years for passenger cars in 2014).

The MoT graph is more descriptive;

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So, the average age for a heavy truck in 2019 was 17.8 years. The average age for a light commercial, 12.2 years.

Using some basic arithmetic, we arrive at how much, per week, a farmer or tradie would be spending over 18 years (rounded up) or 12 years (rounded down);

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So, depending on whether the imported vehicle was new or used, or light commercial or heavy truck, the cost per week for a purchaser would be an “astronomical”…

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$3.07 to $8.29 per week

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That is what “Groundswell” participants were protesting about:

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$3.07 to $8.29 per week

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The irony is that these people probably spent ten times that amount on fuel to put their vehicles on the roads to make their protests.

Meanwhile, as Dr Dean was telling us on Q+A,  “climate change has altered the world we live in already”. And those effects are felt by none other than… farmers. They are amongst the first in queue pleading for state (ie, taxpayer) assistance when floods, droughts, storms pummel their land;

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Although not all were happy with government help;

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A levy on farmers’ utes would seem to be the least of their worries.

The irony is blindingly obvious. Farming is one of the main emitters (fancy term for polluter) – nearly half – in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is simply no escaping the continuing dumping of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into our atmosphere.  The consequences of this pollution is becoming more apparent with each passing week, here and overseas.

And as the situation worsens, it is taxpayers who are expected to stump up with more and more cash to pay for the damage from each calamitous weather event. 

The farmers who protested think nothing of the damage caused to our atmosphere by human activities. But they certainly have their hands out, to help pay for that damage to their farms.

They want the government to get out of their lives. Except when it comes time for government to come to their aid. It’s the “communism” that saves their rural backsides every time.

Remember this guy?

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But for how much longer can we afford to keep paying?

Postscript1

This thin blue band is our atmosphere…

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“Earth’s atmosphere is about 300 miles (480 kilometers) thick, but most of it is within 10 miles (16 km) the surface… The troposphere is the layer closest to Earth’s surface. It is 4 to 12 miles (7 to 20 km) thick and contains half of Earth’s atmosphere.” – Tim Sharp, Space.Com

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Postscript2

Climate Summary for June 2021:

New Zealand’s warmest June on record

Temperature

It was New Zealand’s warmest June on record, with the nationwide average temperature 2.0°C above average.  This is just the 13th occasion since 1909 that a month achieved an anomaly of >1.9˚C relative to the 1981-2010 average. Temperatures were above average (0.51-1.20°C above average) or well above average (>1.20°C above average) throughout the country. Twenty-four locations observed their warmest June on record.

Rainfall

Rainfall was above normal (120-149% of normal) or well above normal (>149% of normal) for eastern parts of Northland, inland Bay of Plenty, eastern Waikato, Wairarapa, northern Canterbury, southeastern Otago and western Southland.  Rainfall was below normal (50-79% of normal) or well below normal (<50% of normal) for parts of Central Otago, South and Mid Canterbury, Nelson, Tasman, inland Whanganui, Gisborne and eastern Bay of Plenty.

Soil Moisture

At the end of the month, soil moisture levels were lower than normal for inland parts of Otago. Soil moisture levels were higher than normal for eastern parts of Canterbury and Marlborough. Near normal soil moisture levels were typical for the remainder of the country.

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Very wet in Northland, dry for many remaining areas
 

Rainfall

Rainfall was well above normal (>149% of normal) or above normal (120-149% of normal) for Northland, western Otago and inland parts of Southland. Rainfall was below normal (50-79% of normal) or well below normal (<50% of normal) for parts of all remaining North Island regions, and much of the northern, eastern and inland areas of the South Island.

Temperature

Temperatures were above average (0.51-1.20°C above average) or near average (±0.50°C of average) for most of the country. Above average temperatures were mostly observed in central and northwestern parts of the South Island, and northern, western and southern parts of the North Island.

Soil Moisture

At the end of the month, soil moisture levels were lower than normal for eastern parts of Otago and Canterbury (south of Ashburton). Near normal soil moisture levels were typical for the remainder of the country.

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* Climate change deniers need go no further. Suitable material here for those who refuse to accept reality.

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References

RNZ: Farmers protest across New Zealand against government regulations

NZ Herald: Opinion – Why farmers protested in NZ towns and cities

Stuff media: This might have been our first successful farmer protest

AAP FactCheck Social Media: Clogged Dutch motorway pic doesn’t show NZ farming protest

RNZ: Wild weather – What you need to know

Twitter: Metservice – storm warning – 10:29 AM · Jul 17, 2021

TVNZ: Q + A with Jack Tame – More needs to be done to reduce effects of climate change – NIWA scientist

Al Jazeera: Finland’s Arctic Lapland area swelters in record heatwave

NIWA: Dr Sam Dean

RNZ: Meth house contamination debunked by PM’s science advisor

NZTA/Waka Kotahi: What discount and fees apply from 2022? – Clean Car Programme 22

Ministry of Transport: Vehicle age – RD025 Average vehicle fleet age (years)

Beehive: Flood damage report 1 Mar 2004

GNS: June 2015 Floods

RNZ: Flood evacuations into the night – 2015

WINZ: Farmers affected by adverse events

IRD: Assistance to farmers affected by floods in the South Canterbury District

Stuff media: Flood-weary farmers want Government to stump up with more cash

NZ Herald: Canterbury flooding – $500,000 in support unlocked for farmers and growers

Beehive: Government commits $4 million additional support for flood-affected Canterbury farmers

NZ Herald: ‘Better off with M.bovis’: Flood-affected farmer relays concerns to Damien O’Connor

Ministry for the Environment: Agriculture emissions and climate change

Space.com: Earth’s Atmosphere – Composition, Climate & Weather

NIWA: Climate Summary for June 2021

Additional

Voxy: Govt commits $600k to flood recovery

NZ Herald: Westport weather – Government to provide relief fund for flood-affected regions

Newshub: South Island floods – Government commits $600,000 to flood recovery as locals face aftermath of adverse weather

RNZ: Government announces financial aid for flood-hit Coasters, Marlborough

Newshub: Canterbury floods: Farmers hope $4 million Government payment is just the start

Driven: Ten things you need to know about the Clean Car Feebate scheme

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: A howl of ugliness

No Right Turn: The government needs to act on this warning

No Right Turn: Climate Change: Calling time on “leakage”

No Right Turn: Looking for more coal is indefensible

No Right Turn: Climate Change: The solution farmers don’t want us to talk about

No Right Turn: Climate Change: Just predatory delay again

The Jackalman: Some farmers are sick puppies

The Standard: Mother Nature gives Groundswell NZ the middle finger

Previous related blogposts

New Zealand – we’re in the sh*t

Investigation into what is happening in our water

Drinking river water – Tourism NZ puts visitors at risk

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

ETS – National continues to fart around

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

The Many Mendacities of Mr Bridges – National’s fair-weather “commitment” to a Climate Change Commission

An Advisory to the West Coast Regional Council

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get government off our backs except when we need help

*  FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency (US)

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Or,

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Acknowledgement: Christ Slane

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Have your own thoughts? Leave a comment. (Trolls need not bother.)

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