A rodeo which has become the biggest attraction at the Wairoa Show has attracted record entries despite animal rights group attempts to get rodeos banned in New Zealand.
This week's rodeo - incorporating a local event on Friday night and a national circuit event on Saturday - has attracted 207 entries from 187 competitors, almost double usual numbers and an encouraging promotional sign ahead of the national circuit finals on March 24-25, also in Wairoa.
It's also expected to be a boon for the Upper Mohaka Rodeo on Sunday, just north of the State Highway 5 bridge over the Mohaka River, near Te Haroto.
It will make them among the bigger North Island rodeos among a circuit of about 35 nationwide, with significant numbers coming from the hub of the sport in the deep south where some rodeos can attract up to 400 entries, said New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association president Marty Deans, of Outram, near Dunedin.
Wairoa Rodeo Club secretary Harmony Wallace was overwhelmed by the numbers, saying she expected "a few" more than usual for the annual show, but the numbers that eventuated.
"We usually get 90 to 110 competitors," she said yesterday at the Wairoa Showgrounds, where the community was staging its working bee ahead of the show, at which the rodeo is possibly the biggest attraction.
She said among the reasons for increased numbers was the cancellation of the Richmond Rodeo in Nelson, which would have otherwise clashed with the rodeos in Hawke's Bay.
Among big crowds however are expected to be representatives of animal welfare activists SAFE, which has promised to film rodeos regularly and report possible animal welfare breaches to the Ministry of Primary Industries, although representatives of MPI and the SPCA are also expected to watch over the events.
As required by national rules, organisers will also have an animal safety officer and a vet, which Mrs Wallace welcomes.
She said rodeo is a family sport - several of her own family are involved - and in most areas clubs are strong. "I think they know we have to come up to standard or we will die," she said.
In a statement almost identical to those being released before most rodeos, including the Parklee Bullride in Central Hawke's Bay in November, SAFE continued to call for a ban on rodeos with a Parliamentary select committee considering a petition on the issue.
Last year Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy was accused of interfering with the process, when he said that while Government is tightening regulations he doesn't see rodeos being banned.
"I believe that rodeos are an important part of New Zealand society, they've been functioning well here for 40 years," he was reported to have said last June.