Two of New Zealand's top blades shearers Tony Dobbs and Allan Oldfield are expected to be at the Central Hawke's Bay A and P Show next week to mark 150 years since a Waipukurau shearing competition which is believed to have been one of the first in the World.
The contest was held on January 21, 1868, predating what had long been thought to have been the first shearing competition in New Zealand, at the Canterbury show in 1873.
Shearing Sports New Zealand says it has been unable to find any record of any earlier shearing contest anywhere in the World, although a report on February 1, 1868, in the Hawke's Bay Herald (a foreunner of Hawke's Bay Today), reports the contest as being "the first shearing match in the inland district."
It was held on the farm of "the Hon H R Russell", effectively the founder of Waipukurau after whom is named the show venue — Russell Park. It was shorn on Russell's saxony merinos, thought to have been landed in New Zealand in Wellington and walked up the coast to Central Hawke's Bay.
The Maori influence in shearing was highlighted in those early days, the event being won by James Walker, a shepherd to chief Te Hapuku. The runner-up was Inia Whangataua, of Takapau, third was Nguha, of Patangata, and fourth Hori Tawhai, of Waipaoa (Waipawa).
Most blade shearing in New Zealand is now done in Canterbury, from where 2017 World championships runner-up Dobbs, of Fairlie, and expected 2019 championships teammate Oldfield, of Geraldine, are expected to travel to Waipukurau to shear in a commemorative match.
CHB show shearing organiser and new CHB A and P Association president David Poulton says the show is excited to be able to mark the milestone, on the Saturday and last day of the November 8-10 show, which marked it's own centenary in 2011.
Hawke's Bay was also the scene of what is thought to have been the first machine shearing competition in the World, at the Hawke's Bay A and P Show in 1902, won by Rimitiriu "The Great" Raihania.