It was his last day at work and he was already dreaming about wending his way the length of New Zealand on a 1964 Fordson Super Major tractor, moving at 30km per hour.

Graeme Campbell had worked at Whanganui Hospital as a radiographer for 12 years. Yesterday, February 21, was his last day at work and his tractor was parked outside.

He's about to join about 30 others on mental health advocate Mike King's fundraising Gumboot Friday Tractor Trek.

Campbell is a trained mechanic who has previously worked on farms. He got keen on tractors and keeps one at his rural Springvale property "just for enjoyment".


In 2012 he drove a tractor all the way to Bluff and returned towing an old truck he had bought and is still fixing up. He reckons tractors are the way to travel.

"You're out in the open. It's like biking, but you don't have to pedal. You can see over fences and it's about the right speed."

Campbell leaves Whanganui for Bluff today with his friend Warrick Huthnance who will be driving "a little old Fergie". The sponsored group of 15 tractors leaves Bluff for Cape Reinga on March 4.

The route has been organised and the tractors will do about 300km a day, mostly on back roads. King will speak to farmer groups about mental health on the way.

"Farmers are well known for not really looking after themselves," Campbell said.

The tractors are expected to get to the cape about March 26 and double back to Auckland in time for Gumboot Friday in the city on April 3.

On that day people are encouraged to donate a gold coin and wear their gumboots to duplicate the depressed feeling of slogging through mud.

Previous Gumboot Fridays have raised more than $1 million for counselling children and young adults in mental distress. Campbell is paying his own way on the trip, mostly staying nights in campgrounds.

A box on the rear carries everything he will need on the trip. Photo / Bevan Conley
A box on the rear carries everything he will need on the trip. Photo / Bevan Conley

He expects the same sort of amount will be raised this time.

He's built a box on the back of the tractor, filled with fuel, oil, water, camping gear, clothes, food and jumper leads.

After Auckland, he and his friend will chug on back to Whanganui. Then he will begin stage two of his retirement: work around his house and section.

If you need help:
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.