New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association secretary Dianna Bradshaw spent 26 years working at the Northland Regional Council - and then she fell in love with a cowboy from Otago.  Pam Jones finds out about her move south and her views on rural life.

You recently moved to Otago after 20 years in Whangarei — what brought you here?

Cowboys who travel the circuit move all over the country chasing a title, and over the years I have made friends with some amazingly talented and special people.

One of these cowboys has become more special to me and in September I cut the apron strings to move to Middlemarch. This is proving to be a culture shock. [My partner] Bruce is a shearing contractor.


The specific difficulties involved with management of shearing staff has made me realise how sheltered my employment history has been. There are real issues with recruitment and retention in the shearing industry, and performance management is like nothing I have ever experienced before.

What differences have you noticed between Otago and Northland?

Rural Otago is big — the farms, the paddocks, irrigation, stock, crops, landscape. It is a change from Northland, where everything seems to be so much more intensive and closer together.

I have found the prolific use of waratahs fascinating — you can't use them up north as they rot in the ground. The Middlemarch community has been very welcoming but I have been told it will be at least 20 years until I will be considered a local. (Thanks Maggie for the milk — I am really missing having a supermarket 10 minutes down the road).

What is your background, and how did you get involved with rodeo?

I come from a rural background. My parents farmed in Northland and I never moved far from home. After leaving school I started working at the Northland Regional Council, where I developed a strong passion for water quantity and quality.

If you ever want to talk about sustainability, retention, catchment planning, riparian management and farm dairy effluent then you won't shut me up. I stayed at council for 26 years, until I decided I wanted to have more time to myself and made the decision to work part time.

I have always been involved with equestrian sports and about 20 years ago became the secretary of the Whangarei Rodeo Club. After I left council this led to taking on the role of the national secretary for the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association.

The association is an interesting organisation to work for. There are not many competing members across the country but it has some very passionate and committed personalities involved.

There is a strong history and tradition around rodeo in the South, and many family names pop up throughout the history of the sport. I often joke that I am the only person in the country who actually works for cowboys — other people may think their boss is a cowboy but my bosses actually are.

Rodeo is strong in the South. It never ceases to amaze me the ability of rural communities to jump in and make events happen. Many of the volunteers involved with running rodeos have never competed but are involved because it is what they do. We hear stories of city-based organisations failing because of lack of engagement but here we are in the country making it happen. This is so important for our children to see and learn.