Friday, the 16th of July 2021, will be forever remembered in New Zealand as the day Kiwi farmers found their voice. What we witnessed throughout NZ was nothing short of extraordinary. I feel incredibly privileged and honored to have been in a room of like-minded farmers when Bryce McKenzie of Groundswell NZ first spoke of the Howl of a Protest. None of us, including Bryce, could have ever dreamed of such a huge showing of unity.
Equally as humbling was the reaction from the general public to the protest with many lining routes clapping, tooting horns and showing their support for farmers.
A question that has been asked by many is, what exactly was the protest about?
The particular points are clearly articulated by Groundswell and I would encourage anyone who is unsure to read them on their website. But I thought I would also provide a more colourful historical comparison to help explain the current situation.
Just over 50 years ago, three astronauts from Apollo 11 set foot on the moon and forever changed history. Their effort was incredible in a time before widespread technology, computing superpowers and the many other modern conveniences we take for granted.
But this landing on the moon was spawned by US president Kennedy’s administration some eight years previously. As part of a global space race, the US government agreed to invest billions of dollars and whatever it took to become the first to the moon. The space program caused huge divisions in a country where many couldn’t understand how so much resources should be allocated to a quest to reach the moon, when there were so many needs of a country back on earth.
Nevertheless, Kennedy and his space programme pushed on with countless setbacks and a number of accidents and even deaths. Their single-minded determination, and some argued “dictatorial” approach, to be world leaders came at an incredible cost both financially and in human lives. It was like they had made up their minds and once that had happened, they would do anything, spend anything and not accept anything other than being first on the moon.
This may sound familiar to the average New Zealander living in 2021. No, our government is not aiming for the moon but their desperate quest to be recognised on the world stage has a lot of similarities. If we as a country pursue Labour’s quest to be world leaders in reforms to freshwater standards, climate change, indigenous biodiversity, significant natural areas and resource management it will come with incredible costs both financially and in human lives.
Financially, the primary sector is the engine room of our economy. Adding the many varied proposed legislations, or let’s be honest and call them taxes, will drag our economy from being a powerhouse to the proverbial outhouse. And in terms of the human cost, we are already hearing heartbreaking stories of farmers killing themselves because the pressures on them are too much to bear.
One can not deny what an achievement it was to put a man on the moon all those years ago. Neil Armstrong himself acknowledged in an interview in 2001 that “hundreds of thousands” of people helped make the project a success. Millions if not billions of incredibly complicated calculations, assumptions and sometimes even guesses all came together in one moment that has never since been replicated in the same way.
And no one in our farming sector thinks that we should rest on our laurels and not continue to push boundaries and strive to be the best. Legislation needs to be fit for purpose, openly consulted on and based on perfectly accurate science and calculations. But the question has to be asked if making comparisons with Labour’s own quest, what happens if just one of those calculations is wrong?
The answer is brutally frightening but shockingly simple. You simply miss the “moon” and end up in the vast void that is space for the rest of eternity.
Or you nail everything and end up in the place you intended, but no one else thinks it’s important enough to follow you there.