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Shearing sports face challenges

THE shearing sports calendar has lost two more shows with the cancellation of both the Kaikoura A&P Show shearing and the Pre Shears Woolhandling Championships.

The Kaikoura Shears were to have been held on February 22, the cancellation confirmed by Shearing Sports New Zealand South Island committee deputy chairman and judges examiner Paul Harris.

Pre Shears Woolhandling organiser Mori Gibbs confirmed the cancellation of that event which was to have been held on March 3, the day before the opening of the 60th Golden Shears in Masterton.

The North Island Senior and Junior woolhandling circuit finals will now be held at Apiti on February 29.

The cancellations follow the loss of the shearing from the Tauranga show which in the past had been held in mid-January.

With a rare five Saturdays in February, a Leap Year phenomenon that has not otherwise happened since 1976, the Kaikoura cancellation means there will be no shearing or woolhandling competitions in New Zealand on the weekend of February 22-23.

The number of competitions throughout the country this season from the start of October to mid-April is now down to 57, the lowest number in more than 35 years.

When Shearing Sports New Zealand was established in 1992, rebranding the previous National Shearing and Woolhandling Committee, there were 87 competitions throughout New Zealand. There were 63 a decade ago in 2009-2010.

“Dwindling sheep numbers have been a factor, but not the only factor”, said Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Sir David Fagan.

The sheep numbers peaked at 70 million in the 1980s and dropped to the 27.4 million quoted in a Beef and Lamb NZ stock survey last year, but the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association said that with many sheep shorn twice, the numbers shorn each year total about 50 million.

“Shearing is still a very important part of the New Zealand economy, and the shearing and woolhandling competitions are a very important part of maintaining the woolshed quality,” Sir David said.

“But the biggest issue is competitions committee membership, in particular the need for younger people in the shearing, farming and associated communities to step-up to help organise the events.”

Sir David said most run well “on the day” as the fraternity regathers on a weekly basis throughout the summer, with many officals and competitors travelling thousands of kilometres over the six months to help the competitions survive.

“It is disappointing to see some competitions go by the board,” he said. “Very rarely do they start-up again once they've stopped.

“It doesn't matter if it's small competitions or big competitions, they've all had their struggles at some time,” he said.

“All competitions need to get young people coming through on their committees,” he said.

“It is hard, everyone seems to be too busy, but those that do are working well.”

A CHALLENGE: Shearing sports face a challenge in New Zealand, with the loss of two more significant competitions, and Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Sir David Fagan said more younger people have got to step up and help organise them. He was pictured at last month's Wairoa A&P Show shears. Picture by Shearing Sports NZ