Maike van der Heide begins a series today looking back over stories of interest from the Marlborough Express files. This instalment is from November 9, 1981.
Wine, bananas and marijuana were topics of discussion when Prime Minister Robert Muldoon visited Blenheim while on the campaign trail on November 8, 1981.
Following a tour of Montana's Brancott vineyard with Montana manager John Marris, Mr Muldoon commented that Marlborough was producing New Zealand's best wines - it just needed to make more.
Not known to shy away from a drink himself, Mr Muldoon added that the vineyard's new trickle irrigation method was a new and legal way to put water in the wine, through the grapes, "not direct as in the old days".
Mr Muldoon faced challenges and heckling at an election meeting later in the day, which reportedly livened up the event considerably.
"A bespectacled elderly man who came in late and determinedly walked to a front row seat, reacted like a bull to a red rag when the Prime Minister began his chart act (showing import and export volumes)."
The Express carried a photograph from the Centennial Hall meeting, of retired orchard worker Mr Paddy Harris, of Rapaura, and noted that he "stands in awe of no one, including the Prime Minister".
"He stood up, put on his hat, shouted, waved his walking stick about and stamped his foot. He walked out shouting, thought the better of it, came back shouting and left again."
The Prime Minister responded: "You can't argue with an old-timer."
Later, as Mr Muldoon lambasted the Labour Party's surcharge on overseas exchange to increase the use of New Zealand-made product, he asked if anyone had ever seen New Zealand-grown bananas, tea or coffee.
"What about marijuana?' came a husky voice from the back stalls.
"By the strength of that reedy voice, you know what it is all about," replied Mr Muldoon.
His experience in Blenheim was tame compared to what greeted him in Christchurch later in the month.
On that occasion, egg shells filled with paint were flung at the prime minister and prolonged fighting broke out between police and demonstrators.
- The Marlborough Express