Hawke's Bay shearers and woolhandlers in Australia to work are camped-out on a small-town sports oval, wondering if they'll ever get to shear the sheep needed to pay their way back home.
The bushfire situation on Kangaroo Island, off the South Australian coast, has also left contractor Stuey Sandilands, from Havelock North, worrying about the future of the business which has employed dozens of Hawke's Bay family and friends over the years.
Speaking to Hawke's Bay via text-message from Kingscote, the main centre on the island with a population of about 1800, Sandilands said there had been huge stock losses around Parndana, the town from which staff including Hawke's Bay shearer Jackson Haraki and partner and former Golden Shears and World woolhandling champion Tina Rimene were evacuated on Thursday.
Some were allowed back on Friday to collect belongings from homes they'd worried had been lost to the fire overnight, the threat highlighted by the burning of trees and scrub on both sides of the highway.
They spent Thursday night at ferry-town Penneshaw, on the north coast and a 45-minute Sealink voyage to Cape Jervis on the mainland, but about four hours from Adelaide.
By Sunday night Haraki, Rimene and others were ensconced at the Kingscote Oval, either sleeping in tents, beneath awnings or in the open.
"Our new home," said former Hawke's Bay rugby development squad member Haraki, reassuring those at home in New Zealand that everyone is safe.
With fires along nearby roads and firebombers in action "as we speak", Sandilands said on Sunday: "The fires raged in and around Parndana, through properties, taking out whole farms and houses on some properties, and miraculously leaving others."
"There have been huge losses in livestock around Parndana," he said. "This ordeal is far from over, spot fires and flare-ups are still happening along the scrub lines and forestry blocks ... the fire will smoulder for months, flaring up when the conditions are hot and windy again."
His shearers quarters towards Seal Bay — about 22km from Parndana and 50km north-coast to south-coast from Kingscote — have been evacuated four times.
"Some of the staff have not worked since December 20 and their funds are starting to run low," he said. "Everyone here is praying for rain."
At least one, young Napier shearer Manson Huata, has ended his first trip shearing in Australia and expects to be back in Hawke's Bay on Wednesday, for a job with Flaxmere contractor Colin Watson Paul, who says he has had other inquiries from shearers and woolhandlers wanting to flee Australia because of the fires.
Kangaroo Island is reported to have about 500,000 sheep, and is estimated to have lost at least 100,000 to the fires.
"It's still uncertain how it will affect our business," said Sandilands, hopeful that some shearing might be able to be done this week.
"We have three teams waiting to start. We need to get sheep shorn before there're none left to shear."
"I've been on Kangaroo Island 29 years, 14 years contracting, and have never seen anything like this," he said. "It has been devastating."