Neil Matheson is widely regarded as the driving force behind the Kohukohu Fire Brigade, but now that reputation goes beyond his role as Chief Fire Officer.

Matheson, aka Mouse, is also officially the best fire appliance driver in the country, having wrested the title from Cust's Simon East, who had won it three years in a row.

K1 Magazine reported that Matheson didn't actually practise driving, but with a brigade of just five operational volunteers and two recruits, he often found himself behind the wheel.

And the introduction of a rural appliance to the competition this year might have thrown some of the top urban drivers a little.

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The Kohukohu appliance is an urban model, but, being a farmer, he had plenty of experience driving a variety of smaller vehicles over all sorts of terrain and in tight spaces.

This was his eighth drivers' challenge. He was second four years ago, and will be back next year to defend his title.