Plenty of ploughing ahead for champs

Athole Bennie competing in the New Zealand Ploughing Championships in 1962.

Rural Southland will be showcased next month when the Thornbury Vintage Tractor and Implement Club hosts the New Zealand Ploughing Championships.

The New Zealand finals will be held at Thornbury where there will be four separate classes of competition, Conventional or 'Silver', Reversible, Vintage, and Horse. The winners of the Conventional and Reversible then go on to compete at the World Ploughing Championships being held in Ohio, USA next year.

Convener Athole Bennie said the New Zealand Ploughing Championships were held in a different location each year, with Southland previously hosting six over the years. 

"It was 60 years ago this year that the first one was held in Southland."

Mr Bennie said the New Zealand Ploughing Association had been going since 1956 with around 30 clubs around the country that have held qualifying events to get to Thornbury.

"In 2017 there would have been 20 qualifying events, from then the winner of the Reversible and Conventional classes go to the world event in 2019 USA. Last year's event was in Kenya, this year is in Germany."

Mr Bennie said the Thornbury Vintage Tractor and Implement Club submitted its application to host the New Zealand championships four years ago.

"We've been working on it ever since. You've got to get the land, landowner, they've got to prepare paddocks so that every ploughman gets an even plot.

"We've got a committee of 10, and every person's got a job to do."

A national competitor himself, Mr Bennie competed in the 1962 ploughing championships and finished third. The event was held in Makarewa where the new Southern Dairy Hub is located. Mr Bennie said five Kiwis had competed at the World Championships with only one, Southlander Ian Miller, winning the title.

The weekend would be full of ploughing, starting in the morning before finishing up in the afternoon.

"When they start ploughing they split it out and turn it back in and stop 20 minutes while it's being judged. It takes three hours to plough the plot."

On top of the ploughing action there will also be machinery displays, food and craft stalls, and children's activities.

Mr Bennie said there would be celebrity guest entertainment for the crowds and a mystery bus trip that would showcase the district.

People, particularly those from urban areas, were encouraged to head along and see all of the action.

"It's a big event and Thornbury Vintage Club are very proud to be able to host it. We've been working hard on this event to showcase Southland," he said.

The championships are being held on Saturday, April 14 and Sunday 15 at 495 Thornbury Waimatuku Road. Entry costs $10 and under 16s go free.


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