The day started early, or late, depending on your perspective.

We met the night before in Christchurch. People had travelled from across New Zealand at a moment’s notice - one group had even driven from Dunedin. The energy was high. Everyone was here because they cared about Saving Our Rivers.

We talked about the day ahead, nonviolence and safety. We ate vegan pizza. Then the real work started...

Lightning Occupation CPW 7 Sep
Activists survey the CPW site, September 7

We shopped, we packed, we cooked, we planned. Then by about 2am it was time to crash out and get ready for a busy day of action ahead.

At 4am the alarm went off, and to be honest, I’ve felt better. There’s nothing quite like two hours of sleep to make you aware of your own mortality. You also definitely know you’ve hit the wrong side of 30 when a bit of missing sleep is enough to make you feel like you've been hit by a bus.

A quick coffee, a bit of breakfast later and we all met at a car park in Christchurch central. It was exciting. Adrenaline was flowing. We were thinking of the task at hand.

We travelled in convoy to a Central Plains Water’s construction site outside Darfield.

Light was still missing from the sky when we arrived at around 6am. It was well before the workers were due on site, but we had much to do.

One team stayed on the public road and set up a support camp. Others went down into the dam itself. They would be the ones who occupied the dam - putting their bodies in the way of this huge irrigation scheme.


After a while, we were joined by a few locals - who inspired us with their passion for the rivers they know so well. These people have watched as irrigation schemes have spread in Canterbury, and with them, more cows. They’ve watched as rivers that were once crystal clear have turned, polluted by industrial agriculture. These people have had enough of Big Irrigation - and I was proud to stand beside them.


We’d hardly been on site for long when police arrived and blocked the road - they saw that people were coming, and they wanted to stop them in their tracks.

Then they came to arrest us.

By late that afternoon, several of our team were in police custody, while those of us who were in the outside camp waited patiently for news from our friends.

When we were eventually reunited - emotions ran high. Many of those who had attended the occupation had never been involved in something like it before.

For them, what had started out as a daunting, yet necessary task to send a message to Big Irrigation, had by nightfall become a source of immense pride and empowerment.

If you haven't already, sign the petition to Stop Industrial Dairy Expansion. And ask your election candidate whether they will continue to subsidise Big Irrigation if elected using our tips here.