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Iconic event creates shear magic

This time next week sees the start of the 63rd Golden Shears. It is a major achievement for the Wairarapa and a credit to the visionaries who, back in 1958 thought it would be a great idea.

The three, Laurie Keats, Iain Douglas and Graham Buckley were all members of the local Young Farmers Club. They approached Federated Farmers for support and the show was on the road in 1961. One of the original three, Laurie Keats, is currently Patron of the Golden Shears.

In my view, what Golden Shears achieves is turning the hard, sweaty work of shearers, wool handlers, and pressers into a glamorous media event. It also puts Masterton and the Wairarapa onto the international stage.

As any sheep farmer will tell you, working in the shearing shed is hard. It’s hard both physically and mentally. You can get good money but you earn it. It can also be a means to an end as several farmers I know started their farm ownership quest by shearing.

The Golden Shears caters for all. You can enter as a novice shearing less than 50 sheep a day. The open competition is for those who can shear over 400 a day, so there’s something for everyone.

Wool handling is a precise operation that, if done correctly, can add value to the clip. Having completed most of a season as a presser, I can assure you that the work is physically hard. I’d add that my pressing days came before the advent of hydraulic wool presses.

To the credit of the industry the woolshed provides work for all regardless of age or gender. We have world-champion women shearers as well as men. I have a mate still shearing at 70.

There’s a strong sense of camaraderie amongst shearing gangs. They spend a lot of time together, travel extensively and work long hours. The Golden Shears provides a great opportunity for the sector to get together. Competitors could be mates, but they’re out to get the title, regardless.

Afterwards, they have a beer and mix.

This year sees a new Regional Teams Challenge. There are six designated regions, and they compete for the supreme title.

In 2026 the World Shearing Championships will be part of Golden Shears in Masterton. It will mean an extra day of competition and will put the event and the region on the international stage.

The event, as well as being huge for shearing and farming in general, is also good for the region, with accommodation booked out months in advance.

Trish Stevens is the current Golden Shears president. She is confident of a strong event this year.

“Every year, the competition grows.” she told me.

“This year will be bigger and better than last. We’re gearing ourselves up for the World Shearing Competition in a couple of years’ time.

“The entries are coming along nicely, and this year we’re expecting to reach 400 competitors across the three disciplines. We have a totally focused committee of locals. Everyone has a part to play to make the event the success it is.

“In addition, we have an amazing team of volunteers. Without them, we wouldn’t have a show. They’re mainly locals with a few out-of-towners who want to be involved.

“There’s a lot of work running the shears, and it is a credit to the committee and volunteers that it goes so smoothly,” she said.

The Wairarapa owes them a debt.

Trish cut her teeth in shearing sheds and now lives in Carterton.

So, fellow locals, let’s get together and support an iconic Wairarapa event.

    Alan Emerson is a semi-retired writer, farmer and businessman living in Wairarapa. He writes a weekly column for Farmers Weekly and has written and/or edited five books.

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