A spectacular event

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Puns aside, last week's World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill were sheer brilliance.

It has been widely lauded as the best event in the championship's 40-year history, with ILT Stadium Southland - dubbed the $40million shearing shed - a most spectacular venue.

Hats off to the organisers for making the big call to bring it south for the first time and to the Southland community for embracing it wholeheartedly.

Christchurch was originally to be the venue but, when it became evident that guaranteeing the required supply of sheep at the right time could be a problem, Invercargill was mooted.

``Let's do it'' was the response when organising committee chairman Tom Wilson got in touch with the stadium manager and that good old number-eight wire, cheese roll munching southern attitude continued.

Getting more than 4000 people along to a shearing event in New Zealand is unheard of, yet Invercargill pulled the punters in.

Shearing legend Sir David Fagan reckons the impact the venue would have on the event was originally totally underestimated.

He attributed it to the profile drawn to the championships by those in the southern city, including the Invercargill City Council, and the organisers.

It was the stadium that had made it the ``best event ever''.

The event took shearing to the masses; it was watched by thousands, ranging from people who had never been to shearing before to past world champions.

Not only did they pack into the stadium but, thanks to live-streaming, the event was watched by supporters in far-flung places like Spain, Norway, the Falkland Islands - and the seat of a combine harvester in an Ashburton paddock.

The economic impact on Southland will be immense, from accommodation to restaurants, and all the related spin-offs.

The logistics in organising such an event are mind-boggling; acquiring and transporting the 4500 sheep to the city, and then turning the stadium into a massive shearing shed. Yet the organisation was slick and impressive.

The championships had the feel-good factor; it was thrilling to watch the skill of the world's best shearers and woolhandlers in action.

But there were also the other heroes; the likes of Charis Morrell, the diminutive 11-year-old Alexandra schoolgirl who represented Switzerland in the woolhandling, or the one-man Mongolian team - shearer ``Nasa'' Chuluunbaatar who, a few years ago, couldn't speak English, let alone use a handpiece.

The unsung heroes were the several hundred volunteers who ensured the smooth running of the event.

Just one such example was the shearing stand, brought up to championship standard by a group of Otago Shears committee members beavering away for hours in a building at the former Rosebank Sawmill site, on the outskirts of Balclutha, enjoying a yarn - and a beer at work's end.

And then there was Prime Minister Bill English who proved you can take the boy out of Dipton but you can't take a Southland sheep farm upbringing out of the country's leader.

He deftly showed some long-ago shearing skills to beat Sir David Fagan in a one-sheep challenge, endearing himself to the public in what was not bad pre-election publicity.

At a time when crossbred wool is hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons, with prices dropping to levels not seen for many years, the event was a shining light - a wonderful showcase of wool and shearing and a much needed shot-in-the-arm publicity-wise for sheep farming.

If only wool could make centre-stage, and become a hero again for the sheep industry, like those 300-odd competitors who came from around the globe to contribute to an event that will be remembered in the deep South for many years to come.



Great day out


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