The coronavirus crisis may be just the kick-start needed for a new era of the Poverty Bay A and P Show Shears, which open the shearing sports season in the North Island this weekend.
A week after the Waimate Shears successfully opened the South Island season, the Poverty Bay Shears in Gisborne open with a Speedshear at 1pm tomorrow. Then the shearing and woolhandling grades get underway on Saturday – starting at 8.30am and not expected to end before 5pm. More than 600 ewes have been prepared for the event.
The Ellesmere A and P Show Shears, which would normally have been held on the same weekend, were cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis, and a new team running the Poverty Bay Shears had just four weeks to get it together after the go-ahead was given amid the relaxation of pandemic alert levels.
The new era comes about through the decision by shearing contractors Ian and Lilibeth Kirkpatrick to hand over the reins of running the competition after many years of service.
Stepping in, after some cajoling from others around the shearing scene in the region, are contractors Deano and Leonora Smith, with what Leonora says is a keen and enthusiastic group of helpers from the shearing gangs in the area.
"I don't think I knew what we were getting ourselves into" she said, appreciating the complexities of running a day's shearing and woolhandling competition. Saturday's events open with Novice shearing and woolhandling events, which attract mainly teenagers competing for the first time.
The area relishes the privilege of staging the first North Island competition of each season, and its role in introducing some shearers and woolhandlers to the competition scene.
Novices are asked to register by 8am, in order to take-in the day's pre-competition demonstration, which includes the low-down on conditions for the day.
While Leonora worries there may be some boxes not ticked and crossed, she's bubbling with the confidence that it will all be good on the day, as competitors, judging and points teams come together from around the country getting into the near-weekly routine of competition with 51 shows on the Shearing Sports New Zealand calendar through to early April.
Among them will be the area's own 2017 World woolhandling champions, Joel Henare and Maryanne Baty, while Waimate winner John Kirkpatrick will be back to defend the Poverty Bay Open shearing title. Te Kuiti shearer Jack Fagan and back to back World Speedshear champion will also be in action on both Friday and Saturday.
Despite not being in charge this year, the Kirkpatrick's will retain a link, both offering the advice needed for a seamless transition, and organising the sheep which come from farmers on their own run, with staff competing and helping during the day.
"We are really lucky we've got commitment from the local contractors," said Leonora Smith. "We all share the workers at some time anyway."
The Speedshear on Friday afternoon will be for Open and Senior shearers, while a Clean Shear will be held for the Intermediate grade. On Saturday, competition will be in the Open, Senior, Intermediate, Junior and Novice shearing grades, and Open, Senior, Junior and Novice woolhandling grades.