All pre-Christmas A and P show shearing sports competitions in the North Island have been cancelled because of the Covid-19 Delta outbreak.
The situation has been reached with cancellations announced on Friday of the Stratford A and P Show, which was scheduled for November 27, and the Whangarei A and P Show the following week (December 4).
Already cancelled had been the Poverty Bay, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Manawatū and Central Hawke's Bay A and P shows, all of which stage an annual shearing and woolhandling championships.
Meanwhile, most pre-Christmas A and P shows in the South Island have been cancelled or downgraded to enable events to be run without spectators and under Level 2 conditions.
However, shearing sports competitions will still be held at Ashburton, Blenheim, Pleasant Point, Christchurch, Nelson and Tapanui.
All are shearing-only except the New Zealand Corriedale shearing and woolhandling championships at the Canterbury Shears on November 11-12.
Taranaki Shears convener Shane Rawlinson looked into continuing with the competition at Stratford despite the cancellation of the show but found it impossible.
He hoped a competition could be held later in the summer if the show committee realised its dream of going ahead with its 2021 show in the new year.
The latest show cancellation was announced on Friday by Whangarei A and P Society president Evan Smeath, whose show last year staged its first shearing competition in a classic outdoor setting at Barge Showgrounds, with a new mobile stand built at a cost of about $40,000.
"The Society has a social responsibility to keep people safe," Smeath said.
"The A and P Show is a family-orientated event with lots of children under the age of 12 years. As they are not able to be vaccinated, we don't want to put them at any unnecessary risk."
Combined with low vaccination rates in Northland and the Show being only six weeks away, the executive made the call to cancel the A and P Show this year.
With continued uncertainty about how long Auckland will remain in lockdown and the risk of level changes in the North, there "really was no choice…the safety of Northland's tamariki is more important to us," Smeath said.
"We know people will be as sad and disappointed as we are. The Show is a huge part of people's summer calendar, and I know it'll be greatly missed.
"In 140 years of the Show's history, we have only seen the Show cancelled in wartime, so believe me the decision was not made lightly."
More than 20 A and P shows, most involving shearing sports, have been cancelled at least once since the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown in mid-March 2020.
The cancellations were the first for such events as the 2020 New Zealand Shears in Te Kuiti, the 2020 NZ Merino Shears in Alexandra, and this year's Golden Shears in Masterton.
The New Zealand Merino Shears and the Golden Shears had otherwise been held annually for 60 years.
Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Sir David Fagan said the cancellations were devastating for shearing and woolhandling competition, which had been recognised officially as a sport for 30 years.
SSNZ is a National Sports Organisation (NSO) affiliated to state agency Sport New Zealand, the only such recognition for any shearing sports organisation anywhere in the world.
Fagan said national-title events such as the 2021 Merino Shears in Alexandra and the Waimate Spring Shears had each been held successfully in the first fortnight of October without public admission and adhering to alert level 2 restrictions.
"It's a bold decision to go ahead in these times," he said.
"Clearly it's about what can be managed safely, but two competitions have been able to do it keeping to the requirements of limited numbers at the door, contact-tracing, mask-wearing, hand-sanitising and social distancing, and still achieve the priority of protecting public safety."
"It's taken a lot of organisation and needed the support of all involved, which was evident by the numbers that competed with the passion and commitment we've come to know of our shearers, woolhandlers, judges and officials."
Events still going ahead pre-Christmas:
October 30: Ashburton A and P Show (shearing only), at Ashburton.
November 6: Marlborough A and P Show (shearing only), at Blenheim; Gymkhana Shears (shearing only), at Pleasant Point.
November 11-12: Canterbury Shears (New Zealand Corriedale Shearing and Woolhandling Championships), at Christchurch.
November 20: Nelson A and P Show (shearing only), at Richmond Park, Nelson; West Otago A and P Show (shearing only), at Tapanui.