One of Central Otago's top shearing and wool handling judges was among a group of people who were honoured recently for each contributing 40 years or more to shearing and shearing sports.

Alexandra's Graeme Bell and 11 other judges from throughout the country were honoured by their peers during the Golden Shears shearing and woolhandling competitions in Masterton at the beginning of March.

Now a PGG Wrightson wool representative, Mr Bell has been involved in the wool harvesting industry since he was about 10, in 1961, when he played truant to go help out during the New Zealand Merino Shearing Championships in Alexandra.

After leaving school, he worked as a woolhandler, then studied wool science at Lincoln University before becoming a wool classer.

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He also competed in merino woolhandling competitions and won the open title in Alexandra twice.

He became a judge in 1972 and was made a life member of the New Zealand Merino Shearing Society in 2016.

Mr Bell and the others were flown to Masterton for the weekend.

Mr Bell would like to see more people take on the challenge of judging.

''There has been a shortage and while numbers are starting to rebuild, so I am hopeful the message is starting to get through that we need the younger generation are starting to take the role on.

''There needs to be a bit more of a cohesive campaign to encourage them.''

-By Yvonna O'Hara

Southern Rural Life