Celebrating 150 years of competitive shearing in NZ

What is believed to be the world's first competitive shearing event will be commemorated on Saturday.

It's a 150 years since the blade shearing competition was held at Waipukurau in1868, thought to be the first ever.

It predates by five years the long-time presumed earliest competition in New Zealand at the Canterbury A&P Show in 1873.

The 150th anniversary blade shear will be held at the Central Hawke's Bay A&P Show in Waipukurau.

Top New Zealand bladeshearer Tony Dobbs, of Failrlie, in the Old Errowanbang woolshed in New South Wales in 2014. On Saturday he shears at a 150-years of New Zealand competition at the Central Hawke's Bay Show in Waipukurau.
Top New Zealand bladeshearer Tony Dobbs, of Failrlie, in the Old Errowanbang woolshed in New South Wales in 2014. On Saturday he shears at a 150-years of New Zealand competition at the Central Hawke's Bay Show in Waipukurau. Photo credit: Supplied

Shearing Sports New Zealand and Shearing Magazine publisher and editor Des Williams says research suggests it was the first shearing competition.

"I know of no earlier record than a February 1, 1868, Hawke's Bay Herald report that it was the first shearing match in the inland district," he said.

The competition in 1868 took place on the property of Waipukurau town father H.R.Russell, whose laying-out of the town included the A&P show venue  Russell Park.

It was won by James Walker, a shepherd to the chief Te Hapuku, runner-up was apparent favourite and more-experienced Inia Whangataua, of Takapau, Patangata shearer Nguha was third, and fourth was Hori Tawhai of Waipaoa (Waipawa).

"Out of the nine entries, only five finished their pens within the appointed time, four of whom were entitled to prizes," the report said. "Porikaapa was disqualified through the careless shearing of one of his sheep."

The sheep were ewes "of Saxony and French merino blood", bred from a flock thought to have been landed in Wellington and driven up the coast to Hawke's Bay.

There were clear implications that speed was to be discouraged, the report, discussing conditions on the farm, saying that "it would be advisable to shear a reduced number in a better and more workman-like manner."

"There is no lack of good shearers, and it may be that the fault rests with the employer more than the employed," it continued. "So long as some sheep farmers encourage the present reckless style, and the men are allowed to "tomahawk" their 100 or 150 a day, an improvement in the style of shearing cannot be looked for."

The first machine shearing competition recorded in New Zealand was at the Hawke's Bay A&P Show in 1902, and is commemorated in the name of the current annual event, the Great Raihania Shears.

Leading New Zealand 2019 World blades shearing championships team hopes Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie, and Allan Oldfield, of Geraldine, will make the trip north for the November 10 commemoration event.

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