The number of farmers struggling with mental health issues has surprised the two Groundswell leaders driving tractors to Auckland to highlight the plight of rural New Zealand.
Bryce McKenzie and fellow Groundswell founder Laurie Paterson reached Picton on Tuesday, having driven two tractors from Invercargill as part of their Drive 4 Change campaign.
After flying across the Cook Strait, they will collect two more tractors for their final push to Auckland, which they expect to reach next Sunday.
McKenzie said he has been surprised at the number of farmers confiding in him that they are struggling mentally trying to understand and comply with a deluge of new government rules and regulations.
“Everywhere we stop, two to three people will talk to us about their mental health battles, the stress on them and the frustration of government regulations that they cannot comply with.”
He had a phone call from a man who has had to return to run the family farm after the suspected suicide of his father.
McKenzie said the son told him his father talked about the pressure of trying to fulfil new government rules and regulations, but the family did not realise how stressed he was.
The mood of the public is overwhelmingly for a change in government, he said.
“People want a change.”
The trek is designed to highlight the issues facing rural communities, especially to those living in larger centres.
When they reach Auckland, McKenzie said, they will participate in a rally at the Ellerslie Racecourse, at which a number of political candidates will speak.