By Philippa Stevenson
Precision ploughing not seen within a furrow of Auckland for nearly 30 years will be on its doorstep this weekend.
Ploughmen on modern and vintage tractors and behind Clydesdale horses practised yesterday for the annual competition being held at a Lyons Rd farm at Mangatawhiri, off State Highway 2 east of Pokeno.
Tomorrow and on Sunday the competition will decide which of 23 regional finalists takes home the coveted Mobil Silver Plough, and who will win the vintage ploughing championship and the horse ploughing contest.
Ian Robb, spokesman for co-organisers the Franklin Vintage Machinery Club, said the last time the national event was held close to Auckland was in 1973 at the Glenbrook Steel Mill site. It attracted 12,000 spectators. "It's a rare occasion for Auck-landers to see the world's best," Mr Robb said.
The programme will start with a street parade at 5 pm today in Pukekohe.
At Mangatawhiri there will be displays of vintage cars, trucks, motorcycles and working traction engines.
There will also be ploughing using restored, pre-1955 machinery, and 10 teams of Clydesdales will compete.
Mr Robb said the Silver Plough competition would be intense be-cause the winner and second placegetter would represent New Zealand at the world contest, in which 30 countries would take part. Former champion Norm Wymer, of South Auckland, knows how tough the competition can be. In 1994, although he had a broken ankle, he won the grassland section of the world championships.
This year, Mr Wymer rates himself eighth in the field of 23, which will include last year's winner, Bobby Mehrtens, of Timaru, and former national champions Noel Sheat of Palmerston in the South Island, Graham Gifford of Blenheim and David Brown of Timaru.
"It can be the luck of the draw and depend on what soil types you get," Mr Wymer said.
Contestants will plough wheat stubble tomorrow and grassland on Sunday "no matter what the weather."
The aim is to plough a straight furrow of the right depth with the fully turned earth forming a smooth mound, or crown.
Mr Robb said the machinery was also on trial in an event which is the ploughing world's equivalent of performance car racing.