A group of Chamberlain 9G tractor enthusiasts prepare to
leave Christchurch on a tractor trek around the South
Island. Photo supplied.
Ron Bywaters loves Chamberlain tractors.
The Australian man also enjoys having a good time and raising
money for a good cause and when you put the three together,
you get tractor trekking Chamberlain-style.
Ten tractors have been shipped from Australia to trek around
the South Island, raising money for the Child Cancer
Foundation, and they have been joined by some New Zealand
Chamberlain 9G owners.
The trip has been organised by Mr Bywaters who was impressed
by New Zealand on previous visits and reckoned it would be an
ideal location for a tractor trek.
The Western Australia Chamberlain 9G Tractor Club was formed
in 1999 and the following year it held its first tractor
trek, from the furthermost western point of Western Australia
to Byron Bay in New South Wales, in time for the Olympic
Games in Sydney.
''We weren't entered in the Olympic Games, we just went over
for it,'' Mr Bywaters quipped.
Every year since, the club has either done a major trek,
which could take a couple of months, or a minor trek, which
could be several weeks away.
In 2009, he organised a trip taking five tractors to the
United States and driving them from Los Angeles to Maryland,
which took three months.
The New Zealand trip, which has taken 14 months to organise,
loops around the South Island. It started last Wednesday in
Christchurch, heading up the east coast to Havelock before
heading down the west coast.
It will reach Otago next month and is scheduled to finish at
Methven - 25 days and 2500km later - on March 15. For those
taking part, it was ''compulsory'' to have a good time, Mr
The club has been raising money for charitable organisations
since its inception and it has raised about $192,000, with
beneficiaries including the Royal Flying Doctor Service and
Trek participants paid their own expenses and any money that
was given by the public - ''whether its 1c or $100'' - went
Mr Bywaters had no idea how much this year's trip would net
for the Child Cancer Foundation but he believed New
Zealanders were generous.
The convoy of tractors was going to be ''a great spectacle''
and something a little different, he said.
The tractors were comfortable to travel in and some had
air-conditioning, although mostly that consisted of ''wind
the window up and down''.
The 9G, named because of its nine-speed gear box, made a name
for itself in 1957 when it took part in an International car
rally around Australia and earned the nickname Tail End
Capable of speeds of up to 100kmh, it assisted broken down
and stranded competitors into check points throughout the
rally. Mr Bywaters, who worked for Chamberlain, was part of
that rescue crew and was on the road ''24-7''. He described
Chamberlains as ''iconic'' tractors.
The Western Australia Chamberlain 9G Tractor Club has about
70 members in Western Australia and a similar number in the
eastern states. Membership was ''cosmopolitan''.
Organising treks was a huge task but something he enjoyed
doing and something that he could contribute to the club, he
Asked what the attraction of tractor trekking was, Mr
Bywaters said: ''I guess we do it because we're able to.
''If you don't do it today, you mightn't be around tomorrow
to do it,'' he said.
Mr Bywaters, who turned 79 on the day the trek started, said
it was doing such things that ''keeps you going''.