'I've lost mates': Protesting Christchurch farmer opens up about mental strain

Aaron Stark is a fifth generation farmer, but he is contemplating a future for himself and his children which isn't on the land.

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Christchurch farmer Aaron Stark, who organised the Christchurch protest, says farmers are struggling financially and mentally under Labour. Source: 1 NEWS

Holding back tears, he opened up to 1 NEWS about the "mental strain" on farmers under Labour

"I've lost mates. I've buried so many mates due to suicide over the last year," he said.

Source: TVNZ

"It's killing the industry and for the first time in my life I'm actually considering getting out of farming and most of the people you're going to meet today are the same."

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Stark said farmers like him were questioning their futures. 

"I think my kids, which are sixth generation, will be lucky to be involved in agriculture, unless something changes dramatically."

He said farmers around the country were being hogtied by overregulation — "too much red tape" — significant natural areas, and, most recently, the 'ute tax'

Farmer Aaron Stark. Source: 1 NEWS

Stark described most farmers as environmentalists, as they want to hand over their farms to their kids.

Farmers did not want to get involved in politics, he said, but Labour had now left them with no choice. 

"We need to make a stand ... This is killing our industry, killing what I love."

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As the organiser for Groundswell NZ's Christchurch protest, he said he was "amazed" by the turnout.

Organisers thought they would be lucky to have 50 to 100 farmers show up, but when 1 NEWS spoke to Stark, there were about 500 gathered.

Their message for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour was to simply listen.

"You need to listen to not only farmers, but New Zealanders," Stark said.

"Everyone here is bleeding."

Where to get help:

- Farmstrong

- Rural Support Network 0800 787 254