Matt Smith getting in and shearing a sheep. Photo: Bruce Barnard.
It’s more than just wearing a black singlet and stubbies like our favourite bloke Wal’ Footrot. Sheep shearing is a historical trade, where more time equals less money – and with 20 sheep for every one New Zealander today, the job needs doing, and fast.
That’s where speed shearing comes into play, and with Bay of Plenty having one of the longest running speed shearing competitions in the country, the art of shearing is in very good hands.
Katikati resident Craig Morton has been taking part in the Te Puna Speed Shearing Competition for around nine years, and his wife Maree Morton has been helping organise the event for 9 years.
Maree says the competition started 20 years ago, not long after shearer John Dalziel came into town, and has grown in popularity over the years.
“John Dalziel was a shearer and he married a local girl and moved to Te Puna,” says Maree. “He started doing kiwifruit and got involved in the local rugby club, so for the first two years the competition was actually at the rugby club for a bit of fun.”
John, known more commonly as Worzel, and Gary Sobye later opened the Top Shop Bar and the event has been there ever since.
“It’s just grown and grown to become an event not only on the shearer’s calendar but also spectators.”
On the night there will be top New Zealand shearers in action shearing three lambs each. With heats and finals, they’ll battle on-stage against the clock, with the fastest time to beat being 15.94 seconds.
The fastest open shearer will walk away with $2000 and the fastest senior shearer will receive $1000 with other prizes for Veterans and Best Local Shearer.
There will also be a Stihl Chainsaw Raffle, as well as Kaiwaka vest donated by Work Wear and Safety, Boonies Boots, and Silver Fern Shearing Singlet sales.
“A lot of townies come along because it’s the closest they’re ever going to get to shearing,” says Maree. “We have retired shearers who travel to catch up with old friends and we have people who come every year and they’re the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave.”
The competition is not only a fun community event, but also a fundraiser for a local family in need.
“Last year was the first time we raised money for a charity. We turned it into a fundraiser because one of the shearers, that has shown up to the Te Puna shearers every year, his son is severally autistic and has no speech,” says Maree.
“He happened to be shearing at our place one day and said: ‘Oh my gosh, we have this opportunity to get an assistant dog, but we have to raise $20,000’ and I came back and thought: ‘You know what he’s always been a part of what we’ve done, lets help out’.”
Due to the community’s support they raised $6000 for an assistance dog for Kyle Balme. This year they plan to do the same, this time fundraising for the Drake family.
“The funds raised at the Te Puna Speed Shear this year will be donated to the Drake family of Omokoroa,” says Maree.
“Their daughter Lucy was diagnosed with Diffuse Midline Glioma, an extremely rare type of brain cancer that has formed in her spine.
“Lucy Drake turned 16 a few days before Christmas and we as a community would like to come together to raise as much as we can to support the Drake family – not only to make lasting memories with Lucy and her siblings Ella, Benny, and Hannah, but also to help them financially.”
The money raised will come from a range of sponsors as well as donations made from locals.
“A group of small committee members and volunteers each year find sponsors in the community to donate money and products to the Speed Shear,” says Maree.
“This year’s sponsors include JMC Te Puna, Ray White Te Puna, Stihl Shop Tauranga/Waihi, Agrisea NZ, RWR Fleet Maintenance, and a number of smaller sponsors have come together to make 2019 Te Puna Speed Shear an event not to be missed.”
The competition is on Saturday, January 12 at 5.30pm at Top Shot Bar, 15D Minden Rd, Te Puna. Entry is via gold coin.
For more on Lucy and the family, see: www.givealittle.co.nz and search ‘Let’s help Lucy’.