World Shearing Champs underway in Invercargill

The blades are flying in Invercargill, with over 400 competitors at the World Shearing and Woolhandling Champs.

The rural activity has been moved indoors and into the spotlight. Invercargill's Stadium Southland has been transformed into a $40 million woolshed.

"It's amazing to have this facility here," says World Shearing Champs organising committee's Tom Wilson.

"It's the best we've ever had in the 40 year history of the World Championships."

The world's top competitors will shear 4,500 sheep over the next four days.

There's a lot of local interest. It's the first time the World Champs have been held in the South Island.

There's a record 31 countries competing here this week, making it the biggest ever World Championships.

Former Welsh champion shearer Elfed Jackson is one of the top shearers in Wales, but reckons New Zealand sheep are a new challenge.

"We're used to the small sheep, the Welsh mountain sheep. These sheep are much bigger, so we're trying to get our hands around them but we're getting there," says Mr Jackson.

The Falkland Islands is one of the smallest countries here.

With a population of under 3,000 but more than half a million sheep, shearing's something they know a bit about.

Although being judged does make it harder.

"Oh no it's a lot more nervy and that for them doing it here for sure. And getting used to people watching you," says Falkland Islands shearer Jack Wilson.

The French team were in full celebrations after winning the rights to host the next World Champs in 2019.

"Today was a good day, but bring on tomorrow now and starting the competition tomorrow," says French Shearing Champion Loic Leygonie.

And the shearers' attention is back on the task at hand, with three days of shearing to go.