Rachel Stewart: the woman who turned on her own tribe

On a Friday morning, Stewart picks me up from Whanganui airport in her Jeep Cherokee. Her falconry dog Chase is in the back, and there's all sorts of crap covering the rear seat. We stop for a quick coffee in town, then drive to her home – a large, new, low-slung house 10 minutes north of the city, surrounded by fields and trees and lifestyle blocks.

Stewart has moved about a bit, but this is home. She was born in Whanganui Hospital in 1962, fourth of four children. Her father's people were local dairy farmers, her mother's sheep farmers from Taranaki.

Which is what makes the feud between her and the rural lobby group Federated Farmers (she calls them "the Feds"; Norman Kirk called them "the National Party in gumboots") so interesting.