A glimpse into the world of competitive ploughing in New Zealand

Some describe the ancient sport of ploughing as an art form, a majestic display of precision and skill. 

And for the ploughmen or women who spend decades finessing their technique, it's a way of life.

"You're actually trying to go for perfection really - the straightest lines, the best-looking furrows," six-time New Zealand ploughing champion Ian Wooley told The Project.

"It's a bit of a soil beauty contest really."

It was recently announced New Zealand would be holding the 75th World Ploughing Championship at Lake Hawea in 2028. But because 2028 is still a while away, The Project headed to a competition in Blenheim over the weekend to take a look at the ploughing scene and see what all the fuss is about.

Linda Cosgrove ploughs on the family's old vintage tractor. And her 18-year-old son is now following in her tracks.

"I started ploughing when Henry was just a little ticker," says Cosgrove, who is treasurer of the Marlborough Ploughing Association.

"And I started ploughing so my father could teach me and then I could pass it on to my son." 

The sense of family and the social aspect is important in the ploughing scene, says Jim Cresswell, acting secretary of the Marlborough Ploughing Association.

"You go to the final every year and you meet most of the same people, a few of the old ones fall off the perch, and it's just like a big happy family."

Roger Jordan, who judges the competitions, says the rules of ploughing are unique.

"Judging ploughing is really not like judging a running race or a long jump race, a first-over-the-line-wins kind of thing. A lot of it comes down to how well the furrow is formed, and then it comes down to workmanship."

And like any sport, there's no room for cheating.

"We're not allowed any GPS guidance or anything like that, it's all just done by eye," says Wooley.

John Booth, from Ashburton, is competing in the horse plough category. He says he loves doing it the old-fashioned way.

"It's a real lovely feeling behind them, to hear the noise of the plough, which you don't hear on a tractor."

He says there's a real rivalry at play with the more modern techniques.

"We're all out to beat the vintage tractors - that's what we're really after."

Ploughing is celebrating a huge milestone this year - 200 years ago Reverend John Butler, a clergyman and farmer in Kerikeri, recorded in his diary the first ever plough, using six imported bullocks. 

"I trust that this day will be remembered with gratitude... may God speed the plough," he wrote.

And now, all those years after sowing the seeds, what Butler hoped for has certainly taken root.