Bluff on a roll for maiden cheese race

New Zealand Red Cross senior community fundraiser co-ordinator Heather Locke created the example "Optimus Rind" to inspire competitors to take part in the Southland Cheese Roll race event taking place down Bluff Hill in September.

“IT started innocently enough,” New Zealand Red Cross senior community fundraiser co-ordinator Heather Locke says.

A few months ago, before the Covid-19 lockdown, the Cantabrian had visited the south to meet the Invercargill team.

Her southern companion, humanitarian development engagement manager Callum Clark asked an innocent question: “Have you ever had a Southland cheese roll?”

“He was so passionate about Bluff, he took me there to look out over the vista from Bluff Hill.”

On the way down the hill, they joked “this is where we should have the local cheese roll”.

The next question was obvious… “how?”

The answer, “build a contraption”.

And that’s how the inaugural Southland Cheese Roll race was conceived.

Hosted by the New Zealand Red Cross, the downhill race would be held on Sunday, September 20, from 11am to 2pm, on Lee St, Bluff.

It’s a simple concept.

Build a gravity vehicle, place a cheese cube (which will be provided by organisers) on the vehicle and let it go.

Hopefully it would make it the two blocks down the hill, Ms Locke said.

Ms Locke built “Optimus Rind” to inspire competitors.

“It’s just an example… I am 99% sure it will not survive.

“In fact, it won’t be raced.”

However, for those people of any age who would like to enter the race, all vehicles (or contraptions) would be displayed prior to the race and checked by a scrutineer.

To add to the fun, all vehicles, which may have a maximum weight of 5kg, must be named and house one cube of cheese (2cm cubed) somewhere in the vehicle.

The vehicle may be a pre-built item, such as a skateboard or roller skate, but must only use gravity for propulsion.

Any vehicle finishing without its cheesy payload would be disqualified. However, pieces of the vehicle may be lost without disqualification.

Colliding with other vehicles was okay, but if overturned or stopped, that vehicle would be disqualified.

Basically, the first vehicle to reach the finish line, with its payload intact, would be the winner of its category (Babybel — aged 12 and under, Mature — 13 and over, or Platter — businesses and teams).

As well as racing in various races, there would be an overall final race where the winners of each category compete against each other.

Then the final, The No Rolls Barre Finale.

Basically, it was about having a lot of community fun, while raising money for the New Zealand Red Cross charity.

“All funds raised from this event will go to support vulnerable people affected by conflict, disaster and social isolation,” Ms Locke said.

“Although the funds would go into the national fund, some would be used for our Pacific neighbours.”

Entry cost was $5 per entry, $50 per team/business, and spectators free.

As well as various prizes on offer including from Shark Experience, Adventure Southland, Bluff Oyster & Food Festival and Real Journeys, winners of the three main categories would have their names inscribed on the annual Southland Cheese Roll honour board which would be on display at the Bluff Service Centre for all to admire, Ms Locke said.

Adding to the community event, the Red Cross’ Disaster Welfare and upport Team would also be on site with their gear to explain the great work they do, Ms Locke said.

A sausage sizzle, and cheese rolls (of course) would also be available to buy at the event.

  • To sign up or for more information,  go to

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