The Hawke's Bay A and P Show's Great Raihania Shears has been cancelled this year despite plans to go ahead with the show in a limited form amid the coronavirus crisis.

The decision has been announced by Flaxmere-based shearing contractor Colin Watson Paul, who has headed the running of the shears since a group was formed to reinstate shearing competition at the show in 2004.

It was celebrated with the renaming of the shearing and woolhandling competition in honour of Rimitiriu "The Great" Raihania, winner of the world's first machine-shearing competition, at the Hawke's Bay show, in 1902.

Unlike other sports-oriented events at the show at Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana in Hastings, the shearing sports are held indoors, in a historic pavilion.


While show organisers are planning competitor-only events outdoors with clusters of no more than 100 people across the 42 hectares of the showgrounds off Kenilworth, Karamu and Elwood roads, Watson Paul saw it as too difficult to stage the shearing and woolhandling and meet all the requirements of the Covid-19 alert levels that might apply at the time.

He said there are multiple issues, including not knowing five weeks out what restrictions would be in place, who could come and what they might compete in, uncertainty of costs for the event and for those taking part, and contact-tracing when, by the nature of the shearing industry, competitors and officials could be dispersing widely and quickly afterwards.

"It's better to pull the pin now," he said, but added there are still hopes of staging the show's secondary schools event on the middle day of the October 21-23 show and a second Women in Wool charity event, held for the first time last year with women who have stepped out of such careers as dentistry, optometry, accountancy, livestock agency and other professions to learn to shear.

The shears have been central to Hawke's Bay's rise to international acclaim in shearing sports, with Hawke's Bay shearers Cam Ferguson, Rowland Smith and John Kirkpatrick having become world champions and, along with Dion King, another from the Bay, winning at least one Golden Shears Open title each. Several Great Raihania Shears Open woolhandling winners have also been world champions.

A&P society general manager Sally Jackson, who last week announced plans for a competitors-only show, said the society remained committed to providing a show for the competitors while safeguarding the future of a show which in most years has an operating budget of several hundred thousand dollars.

At least four other A&P shows in the new season throughout New Zealand have already been cancelled this year because of the Covid crisis.