The logistics of hosting a world record attempt are staggering.

But Shearing Sports NZ organiser Jills Angus Burney had full faith Waihi Pukawa Station, at the southern end of Lake Taupō, was up for the challenge last week where four young female shearers established a world women's strongwool lamb shearing record by shearing 2066 sheep in nine hours.

Megan Whitehead from Gore sheared 608 lambs, Sarah Higgins from Blenheim sheared 528, Natalya Rangiawha from Pio Pio sheared 507 and Amy Silcock from Wairarapa sheared 423.

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Thirty years ago Jills set a world shearing record at Ōpepe Station, north-east of Taupō and when choosing a New Zealand venue, was confident Waihi Pukawa Station would have the capacity. She says the Waihi Pukawa Trust collectively owns Waihi Pukawa Station, Kuratau Station, Taurewa Station and Rangiatea Station.

"Full credit to Wally Kingi, trust chair, Colin and Jo Gates who manage Waihi Pukawa and Taurewa Stations, Rangiatea Station manager Andrew Bolton-Riley and Kuratau Station manager Ali Reid," says Jills.

She put the word out in May 2019 that 1000 sheep were required for the record, and collectively the stations put aside 6000 sheep so the organisers could choose 2000 last week.

Initially 1000 lambs were brought down from National Park.

"But they weren't good enough. So they brought up 1000 lambs from Kuratau Station. Kuratau did their lamb shear on Tuesday but held off the ewe lambs in case they were needed for the record," says Jills.

The lambs were weaned a month ago, and Jills says it was a "massive job" to put 6000 lambs through the yards for selection last week, in the middle of the main shear. Overseen by judges, Taumarunui shearing contractor Roger Neil supervised the crutching of the lambs.

"In preparing for a record, there are very strict rules about how much wool is left on," says Jills.

Prior shearing record holder and drafter Digger Balme then had the job of selecting 4500 sheep on Tuesday morning, two days prior to the record attempt. Pio Pio man and NZ Shearing Contractors Association president Mark Barrowcliffe then supervised all 4500 sheep being washed in sunlight soap "to open up the wool, minimise the girls going through gear and make for a superb cut."

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The sheep were then taken out the back to dry, however they weren't dry enough for a scheduled trial run on Tuesday night.

The day after the record was set, Jills was at Waihi Pukawa Station shearing shed, supervising the removal of modifications to the catching pens.

"We re-built the pens to hold two hot-boxes to keep the lambs warm so it's easier to shear. In the end we had a cold wind and it only warmed up at the end of the day and then the girls did their best tallies."

Jills said each competitor had a crew of five support people with specific roles for the record attempt, with each crew putting in two lots of 10 hours in preparation, overseen by Colin Gates who was in the back pens. Modifications were also required so each competitor's catching pen could hold two people to fill the role of shearer's second and time keeper.

Andrew Bolton-Riley is also the chair of Kuratau School, and Jills said the school ran the barbecue as a fundraiser to feed the 300 or so spectators. Local vets VetEnt donated New World vouchers to feed the 70 plus crew, with the catering overseen by volunteer Mere Hepi from Whakamaru.

Jills donated movie She Shears to Rural Women New Zealand. The movie was made in 2018 and features Jills and fellow female shearers.

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"The president of Rural Women New Zealand Fiona Gower worked for us all day."

Pio Pio shearer Natalya Rangiawha helped set the world record for women's strongwool lamb shearing at Waihi Pukawa Station. Photo / Shearing Sports NZ
Pio Pio shearer Natalya Rangiawha helped set the world record for women's strongwool lamb shearing at Waihi Pukawa Station. Photo / Shearing Sports NZ

Shearer Natalya Rangiawha brought over a crew of 20, plus all her friends and family from Pio Pio. It was her family that rebuilt the pens and were pulling them down on Friday. She said she was nervous to start with, but settled in once she had made some changes and had a good feel for the sheep. Her goal was to get over 500 and she sheared 507.

"The crowd amped up. My uncle said this was the best atmosphere he has ever been to [for a shearing record] with everyone cheering and egging us on. I gave it all I had."