Stand built for world champs

Bruce Walker with the shearing stand that will be used at the Golden Shears World Shearing and...
Bruce Walker with the shearing stand that will be used at the Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling championships in Invercargill. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.
Four South Otago men will have little time to admire their handiwork when the world’s best shearers and woolhandlers converge on Invercargill next year.

Since May, Otago Shears committee members Bruce Walker, Ken Payne, Neville Leslie and Geoff Finch have spent 130 hours preparing the shearing stand for the Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling championships.

About 4500 sheep will be shorn by competitors from about 30 countries at ILT Stadium Southland from February 9 to 11.

The quartet were doing the work as a fundraiser for the Otago Shears, using the stand that was used for its annual competition.

But much work had to be done to it, including extending it from five to six stands, remaking doors, putting up the plywood frontage, and making grating and chutes.

Originally, Mr Walker thought 100 hours would be enough to complete it, but that was likely to stretch out to 150 by the time it was finished.

A large building at the former Rosebank Sawmill site, just south of Balclutha, proved big enough to accommodate the project.

It had been an enjoyable task for the shearing enthusiasts and it was very much a team effort, Mr Walker said.

"We’re a social four. We like to have a bit of a yarn and a couple of quiets after we’ve done [the work]," he said.

The stand will be used for the Otago Shears on Friday, February 3 and Saturday, February 4, and then be dismantled on the Sunday and taken to Invercargill.

It would be "down and back up" in 12 hours ready for the championships which were expected to attract up to 6000 spectators and visitors.

Mr Walker, Mr Payne, Mr Leslie and Mr Finch were all part of the working committee for the championships.

Both Mr Walker and Mr Payne would be judging at the event and Mr Leslie and Mr Finch would be helping organise sheep off trucks and into the pens.

While there would be little time to be spectators, Mr Walker was looking forward to seeing the stand "all dressed up" and in place.

Shearing has taken Mr Walker all over the world, including to the United Kingdom as manager of the New Zealand team, a position which also involved judging duties.

It was great to have the world championships in the South and the Otago shears committee would be well represented with judges and helpers, he said.

It was the 17th time the event has been held and an anniversary of the inaugural event, held in England in 1977.

He was expecting it to be a good spectator event, with a large number of trade exhibits and an expo to promote wool.

The stadium was an excellent venue and the Invercargill community was behind the event, which was good for the local economy.

It was also going to be good for shearing competitions in the South, with overseas competitors able to compete at shows in Lumsden, Winton and Balclutha before the championships.

Opshop frontman Jason Kerrison was returning to his home town to perform at the championships, along with Wanaka’s country-rock singer-songwriter Jody Direen.

Event manager Jade Gillies said the strong early response from the public had delighted organisers and would help ensure the atmosphere was "electric".

"It’s a really packed programme of shearing and wool-handling and having Jody and Jason to perform just tops off what will be an unforgettable occasion for everyone who attends," Mr Gillies said.

Direen will perform on the Friday night during the Southland All Nations final, with Kerrison taking the stage on the Saturday night during the world championship finale event.

"The shearing itself is incredibly entertaining. We’re putting on a show, it’s not just sheep-shearing," he said.

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