A small South Canterbury town with a big heart has come to the rescue of the national shearing circuit with a decision to stage two of the five qualifying rounds in the new summer.
Host of the New Zealand Spring Shearing and Woolhandling Championships, Waimate will also host a fine wool competition for the first time.
This will fill the gap left by the cancellation of this year's New Zealand Merino Championships, which were to have opened the shearing sports season in Alexandra in the first week of October.
The fine wool and crossbred long wool rounds will now both be shorn at the Waimate Spring Shears on October 9-10, with a further South Island round at the New Zealand Corriedale Championships at Marble Point, Hanmer Springs, on November 5-6.
The lamb shearing round will be at the Rangitikei Sports Shears in Marton on February 7, and the second-shear round at the Pahiatua Shears on February 12.
The top 12 will the head for the semi-finals and final at the Golden Shears in Masterton on March 4-6.
Both Alexandra and Waimate have been partners in the series since the prized McSkimming Memorial Trophy was first contested in 1972-73.
It's effectively the ironman event of open-class shearing in New Zealand and has provided a basis for New Zealand transtasman competition team selection almost since the start.
Waimate Shears chairman Warren White, who recently also became chairman of the circuit committee, recognised the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 crisis, but was determined to "give it a go" to help the circuit go ahead, given its status and its history.
Shearing legend and current Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Sir David Fagan won the title nine times, while fellow Golden Shears champions Eddie Reidy, Roger Cox, Martin Ngataki, Brian "Snow" Quinn, Colin King, Edsel Forde, Dion King, John Kirkpatrick and Rowland Smith have also have also won the circuit.
The title is currently held by Marlborough shearer and contractor Angus Moore, the 2012 winner who in March bounced back to win the title for a second time in the 18-year sponsorship tenure of PGG Wrightson Wool, snaring as part of the prize a year's use of a Hyundai Santa Fe, also provided by the sponsor.
With finances a big test for most sports events in New Zealand's bid to shut-out Covid-19, White is urging shearers to confirm their entries as soon as possible, and new sponsors are also being sought.
Entries can be lodged via text message to 0212 954515 and via the Waimate Shears NZ Spring Shearing Competition facebook page.
The shears last year attracted about 150 entries across the shearing, blade shearing and woolhandling competitions and about 20 have already been received, a better-than-usual start.
White said that while some prize money may not be as great as recent years, and the circuit will at this stage not include the vehicle, the keenness of shearers and woolhandlers to get competition under way again is strong.
The last competitions held in New Zealand was on March 15.
Nine competitions were cancelled because of the Covid-19 lockdown throughout the country later that month and in April.
Events cancelled included the New Zealand Shears in Te Kuiti and the national lamb shearing championships at the Mackenzie A and P Show in Fairlie.