Pagan’s shear determination on screen

Alexandra shearer Pagan Karauria with members of a Dion Morrell Shearing gang Jack Simpson, Keri...
Alexandra shearer Pagan Karauria with members of a Dion Morrell Shearing gang Jack Simpson, Keri Henare, Te Aniti Thompson, Rangipa Chase, Pukemarama Hau and David Gower who were working in West Otago this week. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
She might be the South’s latest film star but Pagan Karauria is no prima donna actress.

Left in charge of  father Dion Morrell’s shearing business while he is in Japan for several weeks, the Alexandra woman  has been up every morning between 4.15am and 4.30am.

Her day is full as her mobile phone rings constantly and she ensures the smooth running of seven gangs. But, as she puts it, "I’m just cruising along doing what I love."

Mrs Karauria’s passion for the shearing industry is undeniable -  she is both a shearer and  woolhandler and had the remarkable distinction of competing in both disciplines in the All Nations competition at last year’s World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill.

That passion has been captured in She Shears, a documentary by Miss Conception Films which will have its world premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland on August 1.

Produced by Georgina Conder (The Breaker Upperers) and Ainsley Gardiner (The Breaker Upperers, Boy), it revolves around Masterton’s annual Golden Shears competitions and features five women shearers, including Mrs Karauria.

She Shears will also screen in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin as part of the NZIFF and a nationwide general release is scheduled for October.

Shearing is  still  a male-dominated profession but the gutsy and determined  woman said there were "quite a few women" shearing who were very good.

It was a demanding occupation that required skill and strength and while she acknowledged she appeared to be a strong young woman, she struggled with that because of the life-threatening injuries she sustained nearly a decade ago. In September, 2008, Mrs Karauria was driving a shearing gang to work when she became distracted and the van crashed near Poolburn, killing two of the six occupants.

When it came to her sentencing on charges of careless driving causing death and injury, the judge described it as a "heartbreaking case".

Mrs Karauria spent five years receiving rehabilitation and physiotherapy treatment  but  said her love of the industry never diminished.

"I would get up at 4am every morning with the old man, hobble to the car and I went to the sheds every day. I didn’t want to lose that," she said.

She credited her father,

Dion Morrell,  with helping her through the mental difficulties of dealing with the tragedy and she also had counselling. She also started chasing competitions, which helped to keep her mind occupied. Her ambition now is to make the New Zealand team before she starts to slow down. When first approached by She Shears director Jack Nicol and told he was trying to display the professional side of the shearing industry, that was the "yes" for her.

Initially, she found it a little awkward having a camera following her but she eventually got used to it.

"I probably won’t enjoy watching myself too much," she said with a laugh.

Mrs Karauria (29) is looking forward to the film’s premiere,  saying she can’t  wait to take her husband Thomas with her. He was a "beautiful" left-handed shearer, she said proudly.

As for what she would wear on the red carpet?

"I’m a last-minute girl. It’ll be Red Bands if I had to turn up in gear from Central ...  I’ll have to find something in Auckland."

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