Almost every question put to Bill English in Hawke's Bay was about the Morrinsville protest against Labour's water royalty, or about the cut fuel line to Auckland Airport.

And it was those two big issues, water and transport, that combined to ruin the best photo opportunity of his campaign day: a bike ride along the waterfront.

A fine morning had given way to black clouds and the rain started falling right after English arrived at Takaro Trails bike tour company.

"Is it going to rain much," asked English, reluctance writ large on his face.


"I can lend you a jacket," offered Napier candidate and Cathay Pacific pilot David Elliot.

There was no reply from his leader and a short time later it was decided to call it all off and head straight to the pub. A couple local supporters decided to bike anyway and beat the campaign bus there.

The Westshore Beach Inn brews beer onsite and English found himself behind the bar being talked through pouring a pint by an 11-year-old in a school blazer (Sebastian, son of the owner Jeremy Bayliss).

With no Speights on tap, English bypassed the Trumpageddon IPA and chose the Ahuriri Pale Ale.

The verdict on his pour? "I'd give it a seven out of ten," Jeremy told the Herald. "Like all politicians he was a bit generous."

English started his day at Freshmax Orchards near Hastings, which employs at its peak season 800 people and exports 90 per cent of its produce.

As he entered the huge packhouse floor English walked past conveyor-belts of Gala apples and said, "one a day keeps the Labour Party away".

Finance spokesman Steven Joyce had soon munched through one, with he and English using the visit to announce a five-point economic plan, a collection of existing policy including paying down debt and a commitment to no new taxes.


As well as Freshmax his other stops included the workshop of Taradale Production Engineers - his campaign diary and the five-point plan announcement designed to stress National's economic management and the uncertainty a change in government will bring.

It was a low-key day of campaigning with the real action in Morrinsville. English told media Labour and the Greens had "set out in a divisive way to deal with the water quality issue".

"[They] have carried on as if no one has done anything. And that's what I think those communities have taken offence at."

The Morrinsville protest saw the reappearance of Myrtle, an old tractor that hit the headlines in 2003 after National MP Shane Ardern tried to drive in up the steps of Parliament to protest a proposed flatulence tax.

Greenpeace NZ today tweeted a photo from the time of English sitting on the tractor and holding a sign reading, "the mad cow shouldn't have signed".

English today said of that protest, "there was a lot of heat around at that time".

"But actually the issue this time around is significantly more serious because Labour and the Greens have set out to create Division in the regions, to attack the regional communities in a way that has been punitive and in my view uninformed about the high degree of commitment in those communities to lifting water quality."