16 Jul 2020

Concerns for shearing as overseas workers can't get in

11:34 am on 16 July 2020

By Susan Murray, Reporter

New Zealand's traditional shearing routines could be thrown into disarray this summer if overseas shearers can't get into the country.

Shearing sheep.

File photo. Photo: 123rf

The New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association said, nationally, at least two million sheep are shorn by international shearers.

Association vice president Carolyn Clegg said farmers may have to re-design their shearing plans to avoid animal welfare issues, and it could have business implications too.

She said some lambs may not get shorn, or ewes may just get crutched, rather than fully shorn.

Clegg said it is not just a matter of training up more New Zealanders. It was not a "10 minute job" to learn how to shear, and it took a few years to become experienced enough to shear 200 sheep a day, which was what the organisation was basing its shortfall figures on.

She said there is also not year round work once they are trained.

"Even if we did have training, we only need people for a fixed term to cover the peak seasonal time. So if we trained, say, 115 New Zealanders, throughout the year we don't need them. It's just for the peak seasonal time, when in actual fact you are training them for just a three-month period, which is just not economical for anybody.''

Clegg said contractors do take responsibility for some training.

''Every contractor trains throughout the year to meet their progression needs and you can train them either with block courses and train them in the shed on job, but you keep those people employed all year. It's just for that really peak time you need extra ones.''

Clegg said even if shearers were permitted to come into New Zealand, it was unclear how many would take up the option, given higher flight costs and the requirenent for 14 days in managed isolation.

Shearing Sports NZ, the organisation that runs 57 shearing competition events nationwide, said sponsorship money was hard to find at present and there would be fewer, or no, international shearers to boost competition numbers.

Shearing Sports committee member Warren Parker said the border closure and economic downturn post Covid-19 would affect local shows.

''A lot of shows rely on gaming money from charities and that so a lot of that has been shut down this year.

"People will be looking around to see where they can find some money to run these shows.''

He said the international shearers contribute a lot.

''But people will still run the shows because they were originally put on for New Zealand competitors and it is just that we have a lot more overseas guys coming to New Zealand to learn the skills of the trade now.

"I guess our competitor numbers will be down.''

Clegg said the lack of international shearers taking part in the shows would have a big impact on the local communities.

You've got Mum and Dad running a stall at the shows, you've got the hockey girls tidying up ... so if those shows aren't held, all those people don't have an income stream. They are quite busy events, some of them over two or three days.''

The Alexandra Fine Wool show is the first casualty and has been cancelled this year.

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