Wool-harvesting trainees compete

New Zealand shearing and woolhandling is in good hands, organisers of an inaugural national contest for apprentice wool harvesters say.

Some of the industry's brightest young hopes starred on the first day of the Southern Shears in Gore, last week. North Island and South Island teams went head-to-head in the first contest between the best of the trainees in the Modern Apprentice training project.

The South Island team came out on top, winning the Tectra Wool Harvesting Apprentice National Championship.

Chas Tohiariki, of Southern Shears, who is Tectra Southern South Island southern region training manager, said the contest was definitely ''on the cards'' for future Southern Shears programmes and it would only grow in popularity.

''It's good to see such a lot of young people coming through the industry,'' Mr Tohiariki said.

The North Island team comprised the Lower North Island team of shearers Keanu Sutton, of Dannevirke, and Jayden Hiroti-Green, of Raetihi, and wool-handlers Carmen Smith, of Pongaroa, and Stevee-Rae Alexander, of Wanganui.

The South Island was represented by the Upper South Island team of shearers Jock Barrett and Ethan Pankhurst, both based at Rakaia, and woolhandlers Kerrie-Lee Duff, of Kurow, and Vance Brown, of Christchurch.

The teams won their way into the match with victory in inter-region contests at their respective island workshops last year. They were instructed by shearing greats such as world champion shearers David Fagan and Tom Wilson and woolhandlers Joel Henare and Tina Rimene.

The Southern Shears contest was the first of two inter-island competitions. The second will be at the 30th anniversary New Zealand Championships, in Te Kuiti at the end of next month.

The Tectra project began 14 years ago, with 12 trainees, and has grown to oversee more than 400 in on-the-job training and work with contractors around the country. In-shed tutorials are run by the organisation's training managers and other top shearers and wool-handlers.