Thousands of farmers and hundreds of agricultural vehicles took to the streets across New Zealand on Friday morning to protest against new environmental restrictions.

The protests are reported to have descended on 55 cities, organised by Groundswell NZ, a farming advocacy group that recently gained prominence in speaking out against the new government policy.

Thousands of farmers reportedly took part in the Auckland protest, causing gridlock on the motorways.

New levies

The new Government policies were introduced after reports showed 60% of New Zealand’s rivers are polluted with run-off.

Thousands of hectares of the country’s wetlands have been lost in the past twenty years, leaving the country with just 10% of its pre-European wetland areas and posing significant risks for biodiversity, according to new research.

One point of contention is the recent announcement to tack a levy on the price of high-emission vehicles, starting in 2022.

This levy will have the greatest impact on utility vehicles. The country’s most popular models are set to incur levies of up to $3K.

Groundswell’s position statement said: “There is no electric alternative to the utility vehicle, a vehicle which is essential to New Zealand’s economic heavy-lifters; farmers, horticulturalists, industry support people and tradesmen.

“If there is no alternative, the policy is clearly unworkable and merely another financial burden.”