Counting sheep might be a tried and true method of inducing sleep but there's no time for kipping in tonight's documentary in the Nga Reo series, In The Shed (TV One, 10pm).

The half-hour programme offers an insight into the lives of the Peter Lyon's shearing gang, following them through their run at the Mt Nicholas station on the shores of Lake Wakatipu.

The gang of 16 have 11,000 high country merino sheep to shear in just eight days, which means the shearers must clip hundreds of animals each day. That's also 11,000 fleeces for the team's wool handlers to get sorted.


The Mt Nicholas station's ravishing setting makes it a drawcard for the shearing gang but there's not much time to appreciate the scenery. The station's isolation also means the gang have to get along "like whanau" at work and after hours.

There's about $2 million of wool on the backs of the station's sheep and this gang, with their "go hard or go home" attitude to the job, mean business.

In the shed they're totally professional and get through 1500 sheep a day, working like a well-oiled machine.

The documentary looks at the shearing run from the perspective of different roles, from head shearer Kelly Hokianga to head wool handler Daphne Biddle to junior member and "sheepo" Leslie Clarke.

It's backbreaking work and the younger members of the gang, adjusting to the tough life, have their moments. The penalty for flagging on the job - a jump in the lake - isn't altogether unwelcome after the heat and sweat of the shed.

The job has its lighter moments, however. Clarke, a self-confessed trial to his school teachers, takes time out from the rigours of herding unwilling beasts into pens for a quick break-dancing demo.

And there's an obvious cameraderie among the gang as they relax around a campfire as the sun sets on another long day of toil.

The shearers are the backbone of the country's wool industry and high-quality merino wool is worth millions in exports. It's also highly prized at home, especially among makers of top-end outdoor sports clothing.


The documentary takes a quick detour into the boutiques of Queenstown to check out where some of the products end up.

It also looks at the role Maori play in shearing and their formidable reputation at home and across the Tasman as hard workers who can really set the pace.

This gang are no exception: by day six there's just 1600 sheep to go. Can they do it in a day and finish the job one day early?

The gang fancy their chances but the toughest bunch in the high country, the merino rams, might well have other plans.

With its magnificent scenery and amiable narration by Pio Terei, In The Shed is an enjoyable watch, and an enlightening one for "latte-drinking pen-pushers", as the programme describes them. It's like Country Calendar with a Maori perspective.