Tractor in the city stops outside Parliament
It's been 25 years since Whitianga farmer Graham Murrell tackled driving in a city - until Monday when he took on Parliament with his tractor.
The arrival of the 1952 classic Massey Ferguson raised memories of the controversial tractor incident at Parliament 12 years ago when former Taranaki-King Country MP Shane Ardern drove a tractor called Myrtle up the steps in protest over a proposed agricultural emissions research levy, nicknamed the "fart tax".
But Murrell was staying on the right side of the law and at the bottom of the steps - unlike Ardern who was charged with disorderly conduct.
Murrell is driving from Whitianga to Bluff "just for fun" and to raise money for the Whitianga Social Services which looks after the elderly in his community.
"I used to milk cows for a lot of years and you'd get half-way or three-quarters of the way through calving, it would be muddy and 60 to 70 hour weeks, and I just quietly wanted to ride off into the sunset on a tractor - and here I am," he said.
So far about $3500 had been raised on his trip and he hoped to collect a bit more when he hit the South Island on Monday.
Travelling between 60 and 140 kilometres each day at an average speed of about 21 kmh means Murrell won't reach Bluff until March 21, after setting off at the top of the country on March 1.
"I haven't driven in a city for 25 years, I let my wife do the driving," he said.
"I started at about 4.30am this morning to come into town and beat the traffic."
The response from fellow motorists had been "surprisingly good and positive" and Murrell was being hosted along this stretch of the country by friends and members of Lions, and vintage-tractor groups.
"I'm doing this a lot for the fun of it because I just love what I'm doing, but if I can do a little bit or a lot to help someone else as well then that would be cool," he said.
Coromandel MP Scott Simpson was at Parliament to meet Murrell who had been restoring his tractor, Miss Ferguson, for years with the plan to travel the country.
"He's living the dream and the weather gods have been kind to him," Simpson said.
"When you're sitting on a Massey Ferguson completely exposed to the elements, that's a good thing."