An appeal has been made to shearing sports competitions organisers to keep their events alive and start planning for next season, after dozens of cancellations due to Covid restrictions.
The cancellations reached a peak in the 48 hours following the Government's announcement on Sunday that New Zealand would move to the red setting of the Covid-19 Protection Framework to stall the spread of the Omicron variant.
The nine new cancellations notified in the last 48 hours include premier events the three-day New Zealand Shears, which were to have been held in Te Kuiti in April, and the two-day Southern Shears, which were to have been held in Gore on February 18-19.
It means that 34 of the 59 competitions on the original calendar for the 2021-2022 Shearing Sports New Zealand season have now been cancelled.
These competitions ranged from stand-alone events such as the Golden Shears, NZ Shears and Southern Shears, to A and P show competitions.
They include the fourth and fifth rounds of the PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit and the finals (also at the Golden Shears) but circuit chairman Warren White, of Waimate, said there was a determination to see the series completed, in what is its 50th year.
Options to stage those rounds at other venues were being explored and all interests, especially the views of competitors who may have difficulties making travel arrangements, were being taken into account.
Among the options was the Mackenzie A and P Show scheduled for Fairlie in April, understood to have also been cancelled today - although it was not immediately clear whether an attempt would be made to still stage its national lamb shearing and woolhandling championships.
Organisers of the Rotorua A and P show's Agrodome Shears are determined to go ahead with their shearing and woolhandling championships at the Ngongotaha showgrounds on Sunday, despite the cancellation of the show itself.
Show president Heather Brake said that having gone to extremes to secure 900 sheep travelling more than 100km each way, the committee had backup plans to continue with the event if the protection framework setting moved from orange to red.
It will be primarily a competitors and officials-only event, with equestrian sports and some other usual show classes still being held, each confined to no more than 100 people.
Also determined to go ahead are the Waimarino Shears, in Raetihi, which last Friday not only announced a date change to March 5 (the date vacated by the cancellation of this year's Golden Shears) but also a major sponsor partnership with Te Taura Whiri Te Reo Māori – the Māori Language Commission.
Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Sir David Fagan became president of the New Zealand Shears last week, only to find himself announcing this year's cancellation just seven days later.
Fagan said the circumstances had been "devastating" for all in the sport and the shearing industry, but he hoped committees would "bounce back".
He also hoped that with "new blood on board", committees would move to stage their competitions next season and to protect the future of the shows.
"We are aware, as are many sports, of the need for young people to get into the committee thing and make sure there is a future for the events," he said.
Some had cancelled for a second time and the difficulties with "planning again for events which might be cancelled again" were significant for busy people mainly in the rural sector, Fagan said.
"This is a very passionate community, deeply rooted not only in the sport but also their love of the shearing and wool industry, which, like the competitions, have a long industry associated with the backbone of the New Zealand economy," he said.
Of competitions which had been scheduled from the last week of January to the end of the season in April, the following have been confirmed as cancelled: Taihape, Dannevirke, North Kaipara, Rangitikei, Southern Shears (Gore), Northern Wairoa, Te Puke, North Hokianga, Ohura, Murchison, Counties, Taumarunui, Kaikoura, Pahiatua, Wairarapa Pre-Shears Woolhandling, Golden Shears, Kumeu, Cheviot, Oxford, and NZ Shears (Te Kuiti).
The Reefton Shears are at this stage postponed.
The current programme for the rest of the season is:
January 30 (Sun): Geyserland Agrodome Shears (shearing, woolhandling), at Ngongotaha (Rotorua).
February 6 (Sun): Aria Waitangi Day Sports (shearing, woolhandling), at Aria.
February 12 (Sat): Otago Shears (shearing, woolhandling), at Telford Farm, Balclutha.
February 26 (Sat): Apiti Sports (shearing, woolhandling), at Apiti.
March 5 (Sat): Waimarino Shears (shearing only), at Raetihi; Amuri A and P Show (shearing only), at Rotherham.
March 12 (Sat): Mayfield A and P Show (shearing, blade shearing), at Mayfield.
March 19 (Sat): Warkworth A and P Show (shearing only), at Warkworth; Methven Lamb Shears, Methven A and P Show (shearing only), at Methven.
March 26 (Sat): Waitomo Caves Sports (shearing only), at Waitomo.
March 27 (Sun): Flaxbourne A and P Show (shearing only), at Ward.
April 15-16 (Fri-Sat): Royal Easter Show (shearing only), at Auckland.
April 18 (Mon): Mackenzie A and P Show (shearing and woolhandling), at Fairlie.