The shearing sports calendar has lost two more shows with the cancellation of both the Kaikoura A and P Show shearing and the Pre Shears Woolhandling Championships.
The Kaikoura Shears were to have been held on February 22, the cancellation being confirmed at the weekend by Shearing Sports New Zealand South Island committee deputy chairman and judges examiner Paul Harris.
Pre Shears Woolhandling organiser Mori Gibbs confirmed the cancellation of that event which was to have been held on March 3, the day before the opening of the 60th Golden Shears in Masterton.
The North Island senior and junior woolhandling circuit finals will now be held at Apiti on February 29.
The cancellations follow the loss of the shearing from the Tauranga show which in the past had been held in mid-January.
With a rare five Saturdays in February, a leap year phenomenon that hasn't otherwise happened since 1976, the Kaikoura cancellation means there will be no shearing or woolhandling competitions in New Zealand on the weekend of February 22-23.
The number of competitions throughout the country this season from the start of October to mid-April is now down to 57, the lowest number in more than 35 years.
When Shearing Sports New Zealand was established in 1992, rebranding the previous National Shearing and Woolhandling Committee, there were 87 competitions throughout New Zealand. There were 63 a decade ago in 2009-2010.
Dwindling sheep numbers have been a factor, but not the only factor, says Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Sir David Fagan.
The numbers peaked at 70 million in the 1980s and dropped to the 27.4 million quoted in a Beef + Lamb NZ stock survey last year, but New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association president says that, (with many sheep shorn twice), the actual numbers shorn each year total about 50 million.
Fagan said that makes shearing still a very important part of the New Zealand economy, and the shearing and woolhandling competitions are an integral part of maintaining the woolshed quality.
But the biggest issue is competitions committee membership, in particular the need for younger people in the shearing, farming and associated communities to step-up to help organise the events.
Fagan said most run well "on the day" as the fraternity regathers on a weekly basis throughout the summer, with many officials and competitors travelling thousands of kilometres over the six months to help the competitions survive.
"It is disappointing to see some competitions go by the board" he said.
"Very rarely do they start-up again once they've stopped."
"It doesn't matter if it's small competitions or big competitions they've all had their struggles at some time" he said.
"All competitions need to get young people coming through on their committees" he said.
"It is hard, everyone seems to be too busy, but those that do are working well."